SI.com's Scott Wraight analyzes the Sabres-Senators Eastern Conference final
(1) Buffalo
53-22-7
1st in Northeast
(4) Ottawa
48-25-9
2nd in Northwest
Season Series
10/7 11/15 11/18 12/16
1/3 2/7 2/22 2/24
The Skinny
It's great -- at least for fans -- that these two teams should be fighting (no pun intended) for the Eastern crown. After their Feb. 22 brawl, which included all 12 skaters and 100 PIMs, it'll be interesting to see if this turns into Thunderdome on Ice. Fisticuffs aside, this series features two teams that can send out four capable lines. The Sabres will need to find a way slow Ottawa's top line of Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. That trio has been nearly unstoppable, having combined for 16 goals and 37 points in the playoffs. Buffalo also has to find the cure for its ailing power play, which is just 5-for-35. The Senators, on the other hand, need to get something from their third and fourth lines and continue their improved two-way play.
Spotlight On
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Dany Heatley
Can Heater continue his postseason dominance? If his regular-season play against the Sabres is any indication, the answer will be a huge YES. Heatley, who has five goals and 14 points so far in the playoffs, torched Buffalo for eight goals and 18 points in eight games. But it won't be easy now, as Buffalo's blueliners (mainly Henrik Tallinder) will give the sniper all the physical play he can handle -- and then some. What has made Heatley even more impressive this postseason is his attention to the defensive end, which has enabled coach Bryan Murray to put him out for some PKs.
X-Factor
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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Sabres: Henrik Tallinder
As mentioned above, Tallinder will be counted on heavily -- along with Toni Lydman -- by coach Lindy Ruff to slow and/or shut down Heatley and his linemates. Not an offensive weapon (just two assists in the playoffs), Tallinder is averaging a team-high 23:10 of ice time and he gives Buffalo's backline the confidence and physical presence it needs to contain the Senators. He was one big reason why the Sabres managed to hold Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander to nine points in the second round.

Senators: Chris Neil
He could assume a smaller role because of an undisclosed injury that will leave him at less than 100 percent, but make no mistake: Neil will agitate and instigate the Sabres all series long. After all, it was his hit on Chris Drury that ignited the fiery Feb. 22 brawl. Neil doesn't provide offense, but his presence -- and ability to push blueliners around and get under an opponent's skin -- is invaluable. His mouth and big checks just may goad the Sabres into a handful of untimely penalties.
The Pick
Sabres in six.
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