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Devils-Senators Preview

By NOEY KUPCHAN

STATS Writer

(AP) -- The New Jersey Devils already had the slimmest of playoff chances before absorbing a crushing loss against a lesser opponent their last time out.

Detroit and Columbus took care of the rest.

The Devils, who were eliminated from postseason contention Wednesday, return to the ice Thursday night when they host the Ottawa Senators.

New Jersey (34-29-16) managed to stay in the hunt behind a 4-0-3 stretch, but it couldn't keep it going Monday and lost 1-0 at home to a Calgary team which has long been out of the playoff chase. Cory Schneider finished with 21 saves, allowing the game's only goal 23 seconds into the third period.

The Devils, who had a first-period goal disallowed after replays confirmed Ryan Carter kicked the puck, outshot the Flames 31-22.

"(We) had chances and opportunities and didn't stick it in the back of the net," coach Pete DeBoer said. "A common theme, (we) don't score easily and we hadn't all year. We're at mercy of games like this where margin of error is very small. I thought defensively we were very good, but when you can't score it's hard to win."

New Jersey entered play Wednesday six points behind Detroit for the Eastern Conference wild-card lead and five back of Columbus for the second spot. The Red Wings lost in a shootout and the Blue Jackets won, earning each team the points they needed to knock the Devils out of the hunt.

The Devils have split two meetings with the Senators this season, with each team winning at home. New Jersey fell 5-2 at Ottawa on Oct. 17 and has been limited to 10 goals in going 1-4-2 in its last seven visits.

The Senators (34-31-14) return home after posting back-to-back wins in New York, 3-2 over the Rangers on Saturday and 4-1 over the Islanders on Tuesday.

Captain Jason Spezza had a goal Saturday and two more Tuesday along with an assist. Ales Hemsky also racked up three points that night, but the Senators were officially eliminated from contention with Columbus' 4-3 overtime win over Phoenix.

"That's a position we put ourselves in," Spezza told the NHL's official website. "We haven't collected enough points. You can't leave it up to other teams to lose games. Everybody wins this time of year."

Spezza has 18 points in his last 14 games for the Senators, who are 6-2-1 in their previous nine.

Tuesday's victory gave coach Paul MacLean 100 for his career.

"We've got a long way to go," MacLean said. "It does (feel good) for sure. It's a tremendous honor. I think (it's a) credit to the players and my coaching staff. But there's still a long way to go."

Craig Anderson, who made 45 saves Tuesday, has won six of his last seven starts versus New Jersey with a 1.56 goals-against average. He stopped 40 shots in the Oct. 17 meeting while Spezza had a goal and two assists, giving him 22 points in his last 15 home matchups in the series, including playoffs.

Updated April 9, 2014

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