Their 47 points put them seven behind the front

Senators on pace for playoffs

As they approach the halfway mark of this lockout shortened season, the Senators are on pace to make the playoffs.

In fact, they sitting exactly in the same position they were at the same point in 2011 12.

After 41 outings of that 82 game schedule, they had a 21 15 5 record that had them fifth in the East. Their 47 points put them seven behind the front running New York Rangers and three ahead of the ninth place New Jersey Devils.

They played the second half to a similar tune, going 20 16 6, to wind up eighth and claim the final playoff spot with 92 points, three more than the Buffalo Sabres.

They then went the distance in a first round meeting with the Rangers after having a 3 2 series lead and Game 6 at Scotiabank Place.

A glance at the standings Monday two days before the Senators visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for their 24th game in the 48 game schedule showed the Senators were once again fifth in the conference. Their 28 points left them four back of No. 1 seed Montreal and six up on the Rangers, who were in ninth spot but had played three games fewer than Ottawa.

When they hosted the Devils Monday night, the Leafs were in position to draw even with the Senators, after the same number of games played by both teams.

The stage is set for the Ottawa Toronto battle Wednesday to be another big one.

That the Senators have hung on despite an unbelievable number of injuries to key players has surprised a lot of people, just as they stunned the experts last season who picked them to finish in the cellar. Their secret to success is really no secret at all. They received outstanding goaltending, they play a shutdown style drawn up by coach Paul MacLean and they generally bust their ass.

think, to this point in the season, we played a pretty consistent game, said MacLean, who is in line for a return to the NHL awards ceremony as a Jack Adams Trophy finalist. still striving to be more consistent, and to be better at a higher level. But with all that we gone through I think we worked very hard and been very diligent with what we need to do. The thought now is that we got to keep doing it. Michalek, who has missed the last nine games with a knee injury, could return to the lineup Wednesday. Craig Anderson, who has missed the last five games with a sprained ankle, will not be far behind.

Meanwhile, it been almost five weeks since Jason Spezza had back surgery. Best case scenario for his return should be in the next week or three.

The Senators are glaringly inadequate offensively. Their average of 2.13 goals per game is second worst in the NHL, better than only Nashville even two. In struggling to score, especially recently, they greatly missed Spezza and Erik Karlsson, who holds out hope of making it back for the playoffs.

But overall, making the most of opportunities have been others, especially call ups from Binghamton.

think (Eric) Gryba has really been an eye opener for me, that he come up and played as well as he has, said MacLean. Dziurzynski as well.

Same goes for the development of Kyle Turris and Zack Smith.

haven scored but their overall game without the puck, they taken great strides with it. The frustration of not scoring is there for both of them as well, but the reality is they spend most of the game without the puck, and they been doing a better job of that on a nightly basis. That a positive for us.

play of Patrick Wiericioch, I think his development has come a long way. Both the goaltenders, (Ben) Bishop and (Robin) Lehner, have come and shown they can play in the league. And I think the leadership of our team, with Daniel (Alfredsson) and (Chris) Phillips and (Chris) Neil and Anderson and (Sergei) Gonchar, I think they done another outstanding job of keeping this thing together.

## ## think it a great compliment to (director of player personnel) Pierre Dorion and (assistant GM) Tim Murray and (GM) Bryan Murray staff, the players they collected, added MacLean.

always said we have a good crop of young players. They proving we do. They come and shown they can play in the NHL there even a couple more we haven got to see, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, that more than likely would have been here under the circumstances, but they ended up both being injured. The side effect of this is also now that players like Shane Prince and Mark Borowiecki that are still in Binghamton are getting a bigger role on that team, and that expanding their role as players. Everyone is getting a lot of good growth out of this adversity and that a positive we can take. temptation is there for Murray to make a trade and acquire someone who can score. If his team holds its pattern for another month and if he can get an offensive player that fits into the Senators future expect him to give in.

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