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Senators meet Penguins on Thursday in likely first-round preview

"The Devils are kind of boring," Senators goaltender Ray Emery said Wednesday in comparing New Jersey's approach that results in plenty of points, just few for style, with the Penguins' more run-and-gun attack. "You just try and not make mistakes and give them the lead. Then they bury you with the lead. Pittsburgh's kind of all over the map."

The Devils' method is one the Senators now likely won't have to contend with, at least not in the first round, after Ottawa suffered a 2-1 shootout loss in New Jersey on Tuesday.

The Devils' victory left them atop the Atlantic Division standings and winning the Atlantic is the difference between finishing second in the Eastern Conference or in fourth or fifth place.

With two games to play, the Devils have a three-point lead over the Penguins, meaning Pittsburgh will finish either fourth or fifth and face the Senators next week when the post-season begins.

"It will be a good test for us and maybe a bit more exciting series," Emery said.

The teams play Thursday at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa's final regular-season home game.

It's a preview of a series that would pit two of the NHL's three highest-scoring teams against one another and showcase some of its brightest offensive talents.

Going into Wednesday night's games, the Senators' 280 goals trailed only the Buffalo Sabres' 299 for most in the league. The Penguins rank third with 272 goals. No other team in the Eastern Conference has scored more than 250.

"It would be fun," Senators left-winger Dany Heatley said of the prospect of an Ottawa-Pittsburgh playoff. "They're a good young team and I think we've had some pretty good success against them the last year or two. It would be a good series and an exciting series for sure."

With a future meeting in the cards, Thursday's game allows the teams to leave one another with a reminder of what's to come, even if the Senators don't expect the outcome to have much of a resonating effect on the way they'll approach a playoff meeting.

"(The game) changes for sure, but, having said that, you're still going to play that team next week so you want to play well," said Heatley, who's also aiming for a personal milestone since he's just two goals shy of becoming the first player to register back-to-back 50-goal seasons since Pavel Bure did it

in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.

Also, with a two-point lead over Pittsburgh for fourth, the Senators could clinch home-ice advantage in the first round with a victory, which is even more important than sending any potential message, said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

After a slow start to the season at Scotiabank Place, the Senators have improved their record to 25-12-3, the 12th-best home mark in the league. The Penguins are even better at Mellon Arena, where they've gone 25-10-5 - which ranks ninth overall.

"For us, if we win, it's home ice," said Alfredsson. "That's the biggest thing."



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