Penguins-Senators Playoff Rivalry Began in Minors

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Next week, the Penguins and Ottawa Senators will meet in the postseason for the first time. For players who've come through both teams' American Hockey League affiliates, the playoff rivalry will be nothing new.

When the teams met in 2005, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins erased a 2-0 deficit to beat the Binghamton Senators, 4-2, in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Many players from that series will be on the ice next week when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.

"Oh, yeah, the year of the lockout we had a great series against them," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "That was a big series for us. They were one of the best teams in the league all year, and it was tough, but we were lucky enough to play well, and I wouldn't expect anything less facing them in the first round this year."

The Penguins-Senators first-round series was solidified Thursday night when the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Atlantic Division title.

Home ice remains up for grabs, and the Penguins can secure that tonight in their regular-season finale against the New York Rangers. The Penguins can clinch home ice with a win and a Senators loss in Boston. If they lose in overtime, the Penguins still could get home ice if the Senators lose in regulation to the Bruins.

Eight players each from the Penguins and Senators were involved in that AHL playoff series that ended the Senators' season two years ago.

"It's going to bring back a lot of memories from that series, I'm sure," said Penguins assistant Mike Yeo, who along with head coach Michel Therrien was behind the bench for the AHL Penguins at the time. "One thing that was the same then as we have now is we had a lot of character, and the guys played with a lot of pride."

Because of the NHL lockout of 2004-05, a number of young players who normally would have been in the NHL wound up back in the AHL. The Binghamton Senators had several such players, including Jason Spezza, Anton Volchenkov and Chris Neil.

They lost only 21 times in regulation that season. Led by AHL MVP Spezza, who had a league-high 117 points, the Senators won the East Division with a league-high 276 goals scored. …