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Senators are an underdog worth rooting for

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  • Senators are an underdog worth rooting for

    A Cinderella story. The Little Engine that Could. Sentimental favorite. Inspiring underdog.

    Call the Ottawa Senators what you will, but there are several reasons to root for the Senators to find a way to make the NHL playoffs. They are currently three points out of a playoff spot going into tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Why the Senators are such a good story:

    -On Feb. 10, Ottawa was 14 points out of a playoff spot. The Senators have made up 11 points in roughly seven weeks in a league where it is said that if you are not in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving, you are in trouble.

    -Former Bowling Green college goalie Andrew Hammond, 27, nicknamed the Hamburglar, has risen from the minor leagues to become the Senators’ most important player. He is 15-1-1 with a .938 save percentage in a league where a .917 save percentage is considered a quality start. He has given up two or fewer goals in 15 of his 18 appearances.

    -If the Senators climb into the postseason, Canada could boast five teams in the playoffs. Last season, Montreal was the only Canadian team to qualify.

    -The Senators’ success wasn’t forecast. Star Daniel Alfredsson left the team a couple of years ago, and offensive catalyst Jason Spezza sought a trade last summer. They could have been headed for retooling. Coach Paul MacLean was fired earlier this season because the team was out of sync. But coach Dave Cameron has made this team highly competitive. Take away their recently ended three-game losing streak, and the Senators have been one of the NHL’s top-performing teams for the past seven weeks.

    -Popular Senators general manager Bryan Murray is battling cancer, and you know the players are thinking that pushing into the playoffs would be a small, but appropriate, salute to their leader.

    -The team has had a variety of heroes, but defenseman Erik Karlsson has led the offensive charge with seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points in his past 25 games. ... yan-murray