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GAME: Ottawa Senators (39-21-9-6) at Boston Bruins (37-17-14-7).
TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Boston Bruins are about to enter a minefield.
Hoping to end up with the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Bruins will begin a brutal stretch against Northeast Division rivals who are also jockeying for postseason position when they take on the visiting Ottawa Senators.
The Bruins are currently third in the East, two points behind first-place Tampa Bay but just five in front of Montreal, which is tied for sixth with defending champion New Jersey.
Over the next five days, the Bruins will also play fourth-place Toronto and Montreal.
"There are a few teams that are really challenging for the top spot overall in the East," Boston coach Mike Sullivan said. "So those divisional games are exciting and they are important."
Boston holds a one-point lead over Toronto atop the Northeast, with Ottawa trailing by only two.
"We're looking forward to the whole week," Sullivan said. "This time of year, we're playing a lot of division opponents. Our division has evolved into a pretty tight division."
Winners of five of six, the Bruins rallied from a three-goal deficit for a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.
After getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs last year in five games by New Jersey, the Bruins have taken a more serious approach to this season. Not only do they have solid goaltending in Andrew Raycroft and veteran Felix Potvin, the Bruins also acquired veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar and forward Michael Nylander at the trade deadline.
Nylander, acquired March 4 from Washington, had missed the first 63 games of the season with a broken leg. However, since joining the Bruins, he has six assists in eight games and scored his first goal in the win over Tampa Bay.
"I think it's tough to win in this league with one or two guys," Sullivan said. "To win in this league you have to rely on contributions throughout the lineup."
Unlike the Bruins, the Senators are not playing their best hockey right now, losing four of their last six. Ottawa is coming off a discouraging 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Carolina on Saturday.
Things will not get easier for Ottawa as it will also face Montreal, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida on this five-game road trip.
"It's so close that the one point could determine a lot," Senators forward Mike Fisher said.
STANDINGS: Senators - 93 points, 3rd place, 2 PB, Northeast Division. Bruins - 95 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Marian Hossa, 34 goals and 78 points; Daniel Alfredsson, 45 assists; Chris Neil, 171 PIM. Bruins - Glen Murray, 29 goals; Joe Thornton, 48 assists and 70 points; Doug Doull, 122 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 21): Senators - Power play: 21.9 percent (77 for 351), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (53 for 318), 20th. Bruins - Power play: 16.5 percent (44 for 266), 13th. Penalty killing: 83.6 percent (50 for 304), 19th.
GOALTENDERS: Senators - Patrick Lalime (24-22-7, 4 SO, 2.31 GAA); Martin Prusek (14-5-2, 3, 1.91). Bruins - Raycroft (26-16-8, 3, 2.01); Potvin (11-8-6, 4, 2.52).
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 3-1-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 12; Senators, 3-2, OT. At Ottawa, Martin Havlat's second goal of the game won it for the Senators 1:23 into overtime. Boston defenseman Jiri Slegr scored with 40.4 seconds remaining in regulation as the Bruins salvaged a point despite having their season-high six-game win streak snapped.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 16-14-4-1 on the road; Bruins - 16-10-8-2 at home.