1 Win Away From 2nd Round

Mike Comrie is one win away from uncharted territory - the second round of the NHL playoffs.

He is one of the reasons the Ottawa Senators lead their best-of-seven series 3-1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into Game 5 Thursday night.


Oddsmakers have made Ottawa -230 money line (NHL Odds) favorites for todays game, the over/under has been set at 6.5 total goals (View NHL Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on Ottawa -230 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

``He's been great,'' linemate Mike Fisher said. ``He's not the biggest guy, but he's got a big heart. He's playing really well and physical, making good plays and being smart. He's been huge for us. ...

``He's playing with a bit of an edge.''

No doubt that will come as a surprise to Edmonton Oilers fans who chased their native son out of town four years ago during a messy contract dispute.

Comrie has brought a physical presence in this series, scored two goals and added a huge assist in four games.

``He's one of the smaller guys in the league but he goes out and plays like (6-foot-9) Zdeno Chara. It's unbelievable,'' rugged Ottawa winger Chris Neil said.

Comrie says he's having a blast.

``It's been a lot of fun,'' he said Wednesday after practice at Scotiabank Place. ``Playing in the playoffs again is what every player wants to do. Having an opportunity to play with this team ... it makes things a lot more enjoyable when you have a chance to win every night.''

Comrie arrived in Ottawa from Phoenix in a January trade that was precipitated by injuries to top two centers Jason Spezza and Fisher. But he's proven to be much more than a Band-Aid, especially in the playoffs.

``I think he's risen to the occasion,'' Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. ``As the games get more important he's really played better. He's really determined and he's really gritty.''

The 5-10, 185-pound Comrie stunned fans, and maybe some teammates when he fought in Game 2 with 6-2, 188-pound Colby Armstrong of the Penguins - and won the fight.

``I didn't really want him to do it, no question about it, but the fact that he did it and did well in it, tells me and tells the players, 'I'll help look after you and we'll all battle in this together.' And I kind of like that about him,'' Senators coach Bryan Murray said.

Comrie has found a home on the Senators, his fourth stop in six NHL seasons.

``When I was first traded here the first thing that went through my mind was being part of a team that has a chance to contend for a Stanley Cup,'' Comrie said. ``As a player that's all you can ask for.''

Alfredsson said the trade could not have worked out any better.

``Ever since he came here he's jelled with the team, he's a fun guy to be around,'' Alfredsson said. ``He's obviously been a great addition for us.''

Comrie has had to adjust to a new role. Instead of the first-line center, he's the second-line winger.

``You have to realize the position you're in,'' Comrie said. ``On previous teams you just expect to go out first on the power play, you expect to be the guy the coach puts out in the last couple of minutes. But here we have so much depth and so many guys that can play different roles.''

Five or six seasons ago it would have probably been an issue. But then again, this isn't the same player that broke in with the Oilers in 2000-01.

``We all grow up,'' Comrie said. ``I'm not sure what you were doing when you were 20 years old, but for me, playing in my hometown was a bit challenging.

``But we all learn from our experiences and I'm happy where I am and just enjoying things right now.''

Spezza said the Senators need to finish off the Penguins on Thursday. ``We don't want to have to get back on the plane and go to Pittsburgh and give them a chance,'' Spezza said. ``Their crowd there is pretty electric. When you got a team down, you have to try and take their will away from them early. The first period will be big, we have to make sure we come out strong.''

Notes: Alfredsson and Dany Heatley did not practice Wednesday. ... Forward Patrick Eaves won't play in Game 5, still recovering from Armstrong's check in Game 3. ``He's still a little ways away from coming back,'' Murray said. Forward Oleg Saprykin will again take Eaves' spot on the fourth line.

by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us

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