Senators visit Flyers and look to keep pace in Atlantic

PHILADELPHIA -- With eight games remaining and one game in hand, the Ottawa Senators still have their sights set on catching the Montreal Canadiens and winning the Atlantic Division title.

To do so, the Senators (41-25-8, 90 points) likely need to take advantage of a remaining schedule in which they face five teams currently out of the playoffs, starting with a Tuesday matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers (35-32-8, 78 points).

But if you ask the Senators, it is hard to tell how much they really want to win the Atlantic Division, especially when the reward for finishing on top may be a first-round playoff date with the New York Rangers, who are entrenched in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

"It's a feather in your cap, but, at the end of the day, it doesn't mean anything if you look at how the matchups are going to take place," Senators forward Zack Smith told the Ottawa Citizen. "Is there a benefit? Our focus the whole year has been just to make the playoffs, and, once you get there, anything can happen."

If the Senators stay where they are in second place in the Atlantic, they are likely to face the Toronto Maple Leafs or Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. The Leafs and Bruins are battling for the third spot in the division.

If the Sens were in pursuit of a division title, it took a big hit when they lost 3-1 in Montreal on Saturday night. It was their third loss to the Canadiens (42-24-9, 93 points) in just eight days. It was also their first game of a five-game road trip that continues with stops in Minnesota on Thursday, Winnipeg on Saturday and Detroit on Monday.

Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, who on Monday was nominated by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association for the Masterton Award given annually to the player who most displays the qualities of perseverance and dedication to hockey, said Ottawa must put those three losses to the Canadiens in the rearview mirror.

"We have to move forward," he said. "There's no disappointment in here. We're looking forward to the next one and keep grinding."

The Flyers, meanwhile, are trying to use the energy of Sunday night's 6-2 win in Pittsburgh to their advantage. They sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, six points out of a playoff spot with just seven games to play.

The Flyers have gone 16-22-5 since their 10-game win streak in December. Only the Colorado Avalanche have a worse record in that time. The Flyers also have four teams to climb to get into the playoffs: the Bruins, Islanders, Lightning and Hurricanes.

"Obviously, we know where we are in the standings," Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "It's not going to be easy to make the playoffs; we all know that. (It depends) on the results of the other teams. We just try to play a little relaxed, a little loose."

The Senators are expected to be without injured defenseman Marc Methot, who suffered a finger injury when he was slashed by Penguins center Sidney Crosby last Thursday. Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said Methot could be out weeks.

"How many weeks, I don't know," he said.
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