The Senators are currently seventh in the conference, with only a slim chance of sliding out of that spot.
That makes Thursday's clash in Ottawa a little more interesting than the average regular-season matchup, as the sixth chapter of this Northeast Division rivalry this season may just serve as the final page of the prologue to a best-of-seven opening-round playoff showdown.
"Obviously it looks like we'll wind up playing them in the first round," Bruins center Chris Kelly said after the club's practice Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena. "We've had some great games against them. This is the last one in the six-game series, so we want to come out and have a great effort."
The Bruins have won four of the first five meetings, including both games in Ottawa. Boston outscored the Senators 19-11 in those four wins, but Ottawa did take a 1-0 victory in the last meeting back on Feb. 28 at the Garden.
The Bruins have dominated the rivalry for several years now, going 18-4-0 in the last four seasons, including a 10-1-0 mark in Ottawa. But the Bruins know all that regular-season success won't necessarily translate to the postseason, where the Bruins and Senators have never met.
"It's never easy," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "It's always hard to win a series in the playoffs against any team. We can't be looking at what we did to them this year. We've just got to be ready to play every game our best and really battle."
That battle begins on Thursday. Even though the records won't carry over to the playoffs, the Bruins believe they can make a statement with their effort in Ottawa that could set the tone for the likely postseason clash.
"I think each team wants to prove a point and realizes how important it is," Bruins forward Daniel Paille said. "It could send a message for the next game. For us, we have to take it as a hard game, and I think that's what we expect from them."
The Bruins won't have their full complement of players for this one, with Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas staying in Boston to get some well-deserved rest, but that won't serve as an excuse for anything less than a total effort. The Bruins are looking not just to send a message to the Senators, but they also want to fine-tune their own game as the season wraps up with this game in Ottawa and the finale Saturday against the Sabres at the Garden.
"It's just being professionals," Kelly said. "We want to make sure our game is at the best level it can be. In two games are you going to fix everything that might be a problem with your team? Definitely not, but I don't think we have too many things that are wrong. We're a confident group that's played together in the playoffs before. We know what it takes to play."
In addition to the veterans staying behind in Boston for some extra rest, the Bruins will also be without defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who suffered a left leg injury Tuesday against Pittsburgh. That serves as warning to the dangers of these late games even without any direct bearing on the standings, but the Bruins also know that if they play in fear of injury, that only increases the risk of getting hurt.
"Two games left in the year you don't want anyone to get hurt, but at the same time I think that's why you want to try harder," Paille said. "Because if you don't, that's usually when you get hurt. I think we should just try to play the same game we always play and we should be OK."
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