(Sports Network) - The top-seeded New York Rangers will begin the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals at home, as they host the Ottawa Senators for Game 1 tonight at Madison Square Garden. Ottawa was one of the more surprising stories of the 2011-12 regular, as the Senators returned to the playoffs after missing the postseason in two of the previous three campaigns. After all, the Senators were ranked 13th out of 15 Eastern Conference teams with 74 points in 2010-11 and, at first glance, the club did not appear to have improved all that much in the offseason. A few things happened to help Ottawa gain 18 points in the standings this year, but the biggest factor was the emergence of defenseman Erik Karlsson, who at 21 years of age is one of the most feared offensive blueliners in the game. Karlsson led all NHL defensemen with 78 points, a franchise record for Ottawa D-men, and he tied Nashvilles Shea Weber for the league lead with 19 goals from the back end. Ottawa had just one forward that was able to outscore Karlsson this season and that was Jason Spezza, who had 84 points on 34 goals and 50 assists. It was the fourth-highest point total of Spezzas career and his best output since he had a career-best 92 points in 2007-08. Meanwhile, Milan Michalek turned in his best season with Ottawa, posting a team-high 35 goals, shattering the personal best of 26 tallies he had with San Jose in 2006-07. At 39 years of age, captain Daniel Alfredsson is no longer at the top of his game, but the classy Swede still managed 27 goals, 59 points and a plus-16 rating in 75 games this season. Even though he is signed with Ottawa through the 2012-13 season, Alfredsson has hinted that he could retire after this campaign. Goaltender Craig Anderson, who came to Ottawa with little fanfare prior to the 2010-11 trade deadline, turned into a steady performer for the club this season. Anderson went 33-22-6 with a 2.83 GAA and .914 save percentage this year and Ottawa hopes he can improve upon those numbers in this postseason. Ottawa won three of four matchups against the Rangers this year and the Sens took the final two encounters by a combined 7-1 margin. Gaborik led the Rangers with three goals and five points in four games against Ottawa, while Spezza and Michalek each had four goals for Ottawa. Karlsson added five assists over the four meetings. The Rangers are the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time since winning their last Stanley Cup championship in 1993-94, which was also the last time New York claimed an Atlantic Division title. New York finished the year with 109 points, edging Pittsburgh by one point for both the division crown and the top spot in the East. That comes on the heels of a 93-point performance in 2010-11, a season that ended with the Rangers losing in five games to Washington in the opening round of the playoffs. The Rangers havent won a playoff round since ousting New Jersey in the 2008 conference quarterfinals and the Blueshirts have since lost four straight postseason series. The eighth-seeded Senators havent had much success in the playoffs recently either, going 0-2 in postseason series since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007. Most people figured the Rangers would be an improved team this season after signing prized free agent Brad Richards over the summer, but few could have projected the Blueshirts claiming the top seed in the East. Even with Richards, who was first on the team with 41 assists and second with 66 points, the Rangers are still known more for their ability to stop the opposition from scoring than their own offensive prowess. New York finished 11th in the league with an average of 2.71 goals per game this season and the Blueshirts were third in team defense with just 2.22 goals allowed per contest. Henrik Lundqvist is the leader of New Yorks stingy back end and the Swedish goaltender is coming off a 2011-12 regular season that could land him his first Vezina Trophy as the leagues best puck-stopper. He was among the three finalists for the Vezina three times over his first six NHL seasons, but the award could finally be his after turning in a spectacular seventh campaign. Already considered one of the leagues best goaltenders heading into 2011-12, Lundqvist managed to post personal bests in wins (39), goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.930) while also recording eight shutouts. However, the playoffs have been a sore spot for the 30-year-old Lundqvist during his career. Lundqvist is 15-20 with a 2.60 GAA in the postseason and hes failed to lead New York past the opening round in the clubs last three trips to the playoffs. One thing going in Lundqvist and New Yorks favor this spring is the clubs ever-improving group of talented young defensemen. That group is led by the pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. Marian Gaborik is New Yorks top sniper as the speedy winger led the Rangers with 41 goals and 76 points. Gaborik hopes to have a better showing in this years postseason than he did last spring when the Slovakian had one goal and one assist in five games during New Yorks opening round loss to Washington. "What you learn its not just one game, its a series and its best out of seven," Gaborik told his teams web site about the playoffs. "You cant get down if things are not going your way. You have to stay positive. Its a series, and everyone is bringing it to another level. Thats what I learned. The post-season is a new and different season from the regular season." Richards, meanwhile, is a proven playoff performer who won the Conn Smythe Trophy during Tampa Bays Stanley Cup title in 2004, when he was also coached by Rangers bench boss John Tortorella. All told, Richards has posted 62 points (21 goals, 41 assists) in 63 career postseason games. New Yorks biggest weakness appears to be getting results on the power play, where the Rangers were ranked 23rd in the league with a 15.7-percent success rate. Conversely, the Rangers were ranked fifth in the league in killing penalties, as they stopped the oppositions power play from scoring 86.2 percent of the time. The Rangers and Senators, who have never met before in the playoffs, will play Game 2 of this series Saturday in New York. cheap jerseys china
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. Pacioretty celebrated his second goal of Montreals 4-2 victory over the Leafs on Saturday night by twirling his stick and pretending to sheathe it like a sword.MIAMI -- LeBron James was not at his best, and a game against his former team was slipping away. Chris Bosh made sure that didnt happen. Bosh scored 17 points in the fourth quarter -- the biggest final period by any Miami player this season -- and finished with a game-high 35 points, carrying the Heat to a 92-85 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Bosh shot 10 for 16 and reached the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season as Miami improved to 4-1 against Cleveland since James joined the Heat. "Whenever I play and I dont hesitate, good things happen," Bosh said. He was all about the points down the stretch, literally and figuratively. The 17-point final quarter matched the third-best of his career, and he capped the night with a pair of finger-wags -- one at one of his shots as it hovered on the rim before falling to begin a three-point play, the other at wife Adrienne after his jumper fell for an 84-76 lead and finally allowed Miami to exhale. "I think he made the biggest adjustment with this whole situation," James said, referring to the moves that allowed he, Bosh and Dwyane Wade -- who sat out again with a sprained right ankle -- to team up in July 2010. "Hes done it before." The 35 points matched Boshs high since joining Miami. Kyrie Irving -- Clevelands No. 1 overall draft pick and heir apparent after James as the face of the Cavs franchise -- scored 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Samardo Samuels made his first seven shots and finished with 15 points for the Cavs, who got an 11-point, 11-rebound night from Anderson Varejao and 10 points from Ramon Sessions. "We kind of beat ourselves tonight," Irving said. "We had 22 turnovers and we lost by seven points." Former Cleveland State star Norris Cole scored 10 for Miami, and Udonis Haslem grabbed 10 rebounds for the Heat. Miami committed 18 turnovers, leading to 22 Cleveland points, but found a way -- thanks to Bosh -- down the stretch. "Finally in the last three to four minutes, the ball started the move," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Bosh made his sixth three-pointer of the year with 4:26 left, giving the Heat some long-awaited breathing room at 75-67. And after Irving hit a pair of free throws to get Cleveland within three, Bosh went to work again. He took a pass from James, drove the left side of the lane, got fouled and fell to the court as his shot dropped to set up a three-point play. A minute later, Bosh faked Antawn Jamison into the air and making an 18-footer for an eight-point edge, capped by that salute to hiis pregnant wife.dddddddddddd Cleveland got within three points twice in the final moments after scores by Irving, but no closer. "Stayed in the game for 48 minutes," Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. "And the only thing Im disappointed in is the fact that we had 22 turnovers. Thats killing our young team." Miami improved to 7-1 this season without Wade. His status remains day-to-day. It was the fifth meeting between the Heat and Cavaliers since James made his decision to switch jerseys. James first return to Cleveland was one of the signature moments of last season, and the other three matchups between the clubs -- while nowhere near the spectacle of that first game -- were accompanied by an extraordinary amount of interest and excitement. This time, Heat vs. Cavs was just another game. No huge media crush, no extra security presence, no hubbub of any kind. "I think after a year of kind of going through it, I think its just like any other basketball game right now," Scott said. So the game lacked the off-the-court buzz. In fairness, it was missing any on-court buzz, too. Samuels had a grand total of four baskets in 2012 entering the game, then posted that many dunks in the first half, coming off the bench to start 5 for 5 and help Cleveland leave for the break with a 39-37 lead. Heres how offensively troubled the first half was: Cleveland lost two points during intermission. Following a lengthy review after the teams left the floor, referee Tony Brothers ruled that a basket by Jamison with about 49 seconds left came after the shot clock expired. The basket was wiped away, knotting the game at 37. Things picked up somewhat in the third, with Irving using a screen to go past James, then leaping through a maze of three Heat defenders for a layup and a 45-43 Cleveland lead. Soon, though, Miami put together its best stretch of the night -- a 12-2 run, including James hitting a three-pointer from about 30 feet as the shot clock expired, and ended up taking a less-than-secure 61-58 edge into the final 12 minutes. The Heat never trailed again. "Itd have frustrated me a lot if we lost," James said. "Im all about team. When I dont play well and we lose, I feel like I didnt do enough. But my teammates picked me up." NOTES: Cavs rookie Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont., missed the game with a sprained left ankle, though is expected to be listed as questionable for Wednesdays game in Cleveland against New York. ... Cleveland returns to Miami Feb. 7, with James lone scheduled trip back to his former home building this season set for Feb. 17. ' ' '