The Ottawa Senators will try to lock up the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference tonight when they host the rival Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place.
Tonight's matchup could be a preview of a first-round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs, as the Northeast Division champion Bruins are locked into the second spot in the East and Ottawa needs just one point to claim the seventh seed. The Senators, who have clinched a playoff spot, cannot catch the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils and they need just one point to put themselves beyond the reach of Washington.
Boston, which has won four of five against the Senators this season, will have home-ice advantage no matter who it faces in the best-of-seven conference quarterfinals next week.
The Senators failed to get a single point in their last trip to the ice on Tuesday, losing a 2-1 regulation decision to visiting Carolina. Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward came up with 38 saves to frustrate the Ottawa offense. Jason Spezza scored the lone goal for the Senators, while Craig Anderson gave up both tallies on 31 shots in defeat.
"That was playoff hockey right there," Anderson said. "We ran into a hot goalie, give Ward credit. We're going to face that in the playoffs, there's going to be nights where the goalie plays outstanding. We have to make sure that we give ourselves a chance to win."
Tonight's tilt marks the final home test of the regular season for Ottawa, which will visit New Jersey on Saturday to complete its 2011-12 schedule. The Sens are 20-16-4 as the host this season.
The Bruins were already locked into the second seed when they hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. With their spot in the playoffs already cemented, the defending Stanley Cup champions decided to not even dress No. 1 goaltender Tim Thomas against the Penguins.
Sidney Crosby had two goals and an assist as Pittsburgh downed the Bruins, 5- 3, at TD Garden. Marty Turco stopped just 22-of-27 shots for Boston, while Benoit Pouliot, Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley lit the lamp.
The 37-year-old Thomas, who saw action in 15 games in March, did not make the trip to Ottawa and several of his Bruins teammates will also get to rest tonight. Defenseman Zdeno Chara and forward Patrice Bergeron also remained in Boston, as did blueliner Johnny Boychuk, who suffered a lower-body injury in Tuesday's game.
Boston is 24-15-1 as the guest this year and is playing its final road game of the regular season tonight. The Bruins will cap their schedule Saturday against visiting Buffalo.