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Monday, May 12

Updated: May 12, 3:42 PM ET

Devils fully aware of Senators' depth

Associated Press

OTTAWA -- The New Jersey Devils discovered it's one thing to contain Marian Hossa and Daniel Alfredsson, and another to shut down the rest of the Ottawa Senators' potent lineup.

That's the imposing challenge facing the Devils, down 1-0 in the Eastern Conference finals with Game 2 at Ottawa on Tuesday.

"We knew that they just don't have one, two, or three guys that you have to be careful of,'' Devils forward Patrick Elias said Monday. "And they proved it. Their big guys haven't scored, but they're playing well. They're dangerous.''

Coach Pat Burns said it was the Devils' mistakes that cost them in Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss. He counted 25 turnovers, far too many against the Senators, who finished with the NHL's best regular-season record.

"If they want the puck, they're going to have to take it away from us. We just can't give it away,'' Burns said. "They're an all-around good team.''

So is New Jersey, which finished with the second-best record in the East and is making its third conference finals appearance in four years.

And while the Devils weren't exactly outplayed in Game 1, they did have trouble matching the Senators' speed and depth. Ottawa enjoyed several odd-man rushes, including the game-winning play in which Shaun Van Allen capped a 2-on-1 opportunity.

Ottawa, which finished fifth in the NHL with 263 regular-season goals, possesses the NHL's most balanced attack, led by the creative right-wing corps of Alfredsson, Hossa and Martin Havlat. That trio is spread across the team's top three lines.

While Hossa and Alfredsson, Ottawa's top-two regular-season scorers, were held off the score sheet in Game 1, Havlat set up the game-winner. The other two goals came from first-line center Todd White and fourth-line winger Chris Neil.

Center Bryan Smolinski was immediately struck by Ottawa's depth when the Senators acquired him from Los Angeles in March.

"Looking on the outside in, it's sickening how young they are and how everyone wants to score,'' Smolinski said, assessing his team. "You can throw the ball up in the air and pick four lines. It's sick the depth that we have.''

The Senators' balance is apparent when breaking down each line's playoff output.

Ottawa's first line, centered by White and rounded out by Alfredsson and Mike Fisher, has accounted for 10 of the team's 33 goals. Line 2, in which Radek Bonk centers Hossa and Vaclav Varada, has combined for nine.

That's followed by Van Allen's line, which has seven goals, and Smolinski's line, which has three. Ottawa's defensemen also have three goals.

What makes the Senators even more difficult to beat is how well they play defensively. The Senators, as a team, and goalie Patrick Lalime, individually, set NHL playoff records on Saturday in allowing two or fewer goals in 11 consecutive games.

"I wouldn't say I'm amazed,'' Senators defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn said. "Strong goaltending would obviously be the No. 1 factor, but I think it's also a commitment by everyone in our locker room to play strong defense.''

The Devils are confident that the Senators are vulnerable, noting how they rallied from a two-goal deficit to force overtime. Joe Nieuwendyk's goal came as a result of a crisp passing play, while John Madden's aggressive forechecking led to Jay Pandolfo's one-timer that tied the game.

"I think once we started to take the attack to them, I think we started to turn the game around,'' Nieuwendyk said. "It would've been nice to finish it off in the third, but you have to try and find the positives, and we will build on that.''

Chris Phillips, who leads Senators defensemen with a plus-5 rating, did not practice Monday. Coach Jacques Martin said Phillips has the flu and is listed as hopeful for Game 2.
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