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Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2003

NHL Eastern Conference Finals: Senators’ right side struggling

May 17, 2003

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— After shutting down Joe Thornton in the first round and Vincent Lecavalier in the second, the New Jersey Devils are stifling perhaps the best right side in hockey.

Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa's high-scoring right wings, have combined for just two assists in the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Devils.

They are being held in check just as Boston's Thornton and Tampa Bay's Lecavalier were in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The lack of production is one of the big reasons the Senators trail the best-of-seven series 2-1, and are in a little trouble heading into Game 4 today at Continental Airlines Arena.

"I think it's an almost-must-win for us," Alfredsson said. "It's going to be a very important game for us, and if we win we get momentum right back."

The Devils and goaltender Martin Brodeur have been outstanding in winning the last two games. The Senators, who had the best regular-season record in the league, have scored one goal since winning the series opener 3-2 in overtime.

Hossa, Havlat and Alfredsson, who combined for 96 goals in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs, had 20 shots in the first two games against New Jersey. But most of the shots were from bad angles and the outside.

Hossa's best chance in Thursday night's 1-0 loss was a shot from the corner that hit off the leg of Devils defenseman Scott Stevens and went wide of the net.

"We've had a few chances, but Brodeur was excellent," Hossa said. "We knew they play good defensively. We just have to find a way to break that and score."

The Devils' defensive philosophy is simple. They clog the middle of the ice, push the Senators to the outside and try to finish their checks along the boards.

"That's something that is underrated," said John Madden, the center paired against the opposition's top line. "You should be preaching that from day one, when you are taught to play hockey. You should teach players how to play defense.

"That's making sure when the offensive guys go in areas where they can score goals, you punish them and make them pay a price to score. That's the way we've treated them. We want them on the outside."

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