NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, May 10th
(All times eastern)
(4) Ottawa Senators (0-0) at (1) Buffalo Sabres (0-0), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators will resume a heated
rivalry on the big stage tonight, when the top-seeded Sabres host Game 1 of
the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals at HSBC Arena.
This series pits a pair of bitter division combatants against one another and
for that reason it has the potential to be the best matchup in this year's
The Sabres and Senators played eight times during the regular season and the
hostilities reached a peak on February 24, when the teams engaged in a nasty
brawl that featured all 12 players on the ice, including the goaltenders.
Buffalo wound up winning the Northeast Division title, but the Senators held
the upper hand in the season series as they posted a 5-3 record against the
Sabres this year.
The Sabres and Sens have met three times in playoff series and Buffalo is 3-0
in those series. The clubs faced off in last year's conference semifinals and
Buffalo won that set in five games. The Senators are just 4-12 all-time in
playoff tilts against the Sabres.
Buffalo, this year's Presidents' Trophy winner, nearly had their backs against
the wall in their last playoff series against the New York Rangers, but were
able to win that series in six games and reach the Eastern Conference finals
for the second straight year.
It's not surprising that centermen Chris Drury and Daniel Briere have led the
way for the Sabres in this postseason, as they have been the sparkplugs for
the team all year long. Briere is leading Buffalo with 11 points (2 goals, 9
assists), while Drury is second in points with 10 and first in goals with
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller has been superb in this postseason, posting an
8-3 record, 2.07 goals against average and .928 save percentage. The American
backstop has yielded two goals or less in eight of his 11 playoff games this
The Sabres, who have never won a Stanley Cup title, will be attempting to
reach the final round for the first time since 1999, when they lost to Dallas
in six games. Buffalo failed to reach the Stanley Cup finals last year, as
they lost a grueling, seven-game conference final series to eventual champion
Meanwhile, the Senators have been labeled as disappointing playoff performers
in recent years, but they are trying to shed that image in this postseason.
The fourth-seeded Senators have advanced past the first two rounds of the
Eastern Conference playoffs by winning each series in five games. Ottawa
disposed of Pittsburgh in the opening round and followed that by bouncing New
Jersey in the conference semifinals.
Ottawa, which is in the postseason for the 10th straight year, came into the
current playoffs with just three series wins of five games or less in
franchise history. The club has still never earned a sweep in 16 all-time
The Senators are in the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in club
annals and for the first time since losing in seven games to New Jersey in
Ottawa has been led in the postseason by a stellar trio of forwards that form
one of the most formidable lines in all of hockey. Jason Spezza centers the
line and is flanked by wingers Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley. It doesn't
come as a shock that those players are the top-three scorers for Ottawa in the
Heatley, who posted a team-high 105 points during the regular season, is
leading the Senators in scoring so far in this postseason, as he has notched a
team-high 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists). Spezza is next with five goals and
seven assists and Alfredsson, the team captain, is third in points with 11,
but first in goals with six markers.
The Senators also have had a great asset in goal this postseason, as 24-year-
old netminder Ray Emery continues to come into his own. The Ontario native
shrugged off a poor 2006 postseason to go 8-2 with a 2.04 goals against
average and .919 save percentage this year.
Emery has also posted his first two playoff shutouts in this postseason and
outplayed the legendary Martin Brodeur in the last series against New Jersey.
Buffalo was 28-10-3 as the home team during the regular season, while the
Senators posted a solid 23-12-6 mark as the visiting club.
The second game of this series is scheduled for Saturday evening at HSBC
05/10 10:28:15 ET