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Ottawa Senators' lesser lights hope to trouble New Jersey Devils

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Ottawa Senators' lesser lights hope to trouble New Jersey Devils

The Canadian Press
By:

Should the Senators progress past the Devils in Round 2, however, it'll likely be because their lesser lights continued to shine as brightly as they have so far this post-season.

"Every line chipped in last (series) and we've seen that all year,"

left-winger Antoine Vermette said Wednesday before the Senators departed for New Jersey and the opening game of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal Thursday (7 p.m. ET).

The Tampa Bay Lightning may have thrown a scare into the Devils in the opening round by forcing New Jersey to come back from a 2-1 series deficit to win in six games.

Lightning stars Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards carried the offensive load, but ultimately didn't have the support to deal with the Devils in the long run.

That won't be the case against the Senators.

Offensively, the high-scoring trio of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson is only the start of a deep and talented Senators' lineup - one in which 16 of 19 skaters recorded at least a point in disposing of the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the opening round.

"I think it's in a way kind of similar to Tampa Bay where they have that really good top line, but, at the same time, they have three other lines that can put the puck in the net," Devils forward Zach Parise said from New Jersey.

Devils coach and general manager Lou Lamoriello said earlier this week his team's biggest challenge was dealing with the Senators' depth: Four lines and three pairs of defencemen that are fast, talented and grittier than previous editions of the Senators.

From Spezza's line to the fourth line of veteran Dean McAmmond, Christoph Schubert and Oleg Saprykin, the Devils' defence and goaltender Martin Brodeur can expect to face pressure that Tampa Bay couldn't maintain.

"I'm the fourth-line centre (and) we're capable in our own end, for sure, and we've been able to finish," said McAmmond, who chipped in with three points against the Penguins.

"We're the fourth line in the rotation, but we're not necessarily just your typical checking line that can only just get the puck in and bring some energy. We can be a threat."

Offensively, the Devils offer up two strong scoring lines, but after Patrik Elias, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez and Parise, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner, they only received three points, including one goal, from their remaining forwards (John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Sergei Brylin, Michael Rupp, Erik Rasmussen and Jim Dowd).

Likewise, Ottawa's second line of Mike Fisher, Mike Comrie and Peter Schaefer is dangerous, but the Senators didn't experience much of a drop-off after that against the Penguins.

Third-line centre Chris Kelly had four points, including three goals, in the opening round while Vermette, a 19-goal scorer during the regular season, and right-winger Chris Neil combined for another two goals and five points between them.

Schubert and Saprykin, who replaced the injured Patrick Eaves (concussion-like symptoms) for the final two games against the Penguins, were the only Senators' forwards to not record at least a point in the opening round.

With home-ice advantage, Lamoriello has the option of dictating which lines play head-to-head.

Any way the Devils go, the Senators are confident it will work in their favour.

"It would probably be to our advantage to be able to roll four lines and I'm confident we can play against Gomez and Gionta if they try and match us up," McAmmond said at the prospect of drawing checking duties opposite the EGG Line.

"I'm not afraid of that matchup for us. I think we'd be able to handle that, so that's ice time where they're not playing against our big guys."

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Ottawa Senators' lesser lights hope to trouble New Jersey Devils