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Senators' campaign promising

Who would have thought a game between Ottawa and Tampa Bay in mid-March would have playoff implications? Tuesday night's game did _ for both teams.

Perhaps it's no surprise the Lightning is in the hunt for a playoff berth. But the Senators?

Coming into this season, Ottawa was a franchise that had a record of 51-224-23 since its inception in 1992. The Senators' record for victories in a season was 18. By totaling 41 points last season, the Senators set another franchise record.

But Ottawa has broken those records and, yes, came to Tampa Bay on Tuesday on the outskirts of a playoff spot.

"I really like the way they've built that team," Lightning coach Terry Crisp said. "They've got great team speed, a nice mix of young guys and veterans, and they're a team that you have to be prepared to play against. If you're not, they can really take it to you. They are on the way up."

MEASURING THE VICTORY: After his shutout, goalie Rick Tabaracci's leg pads were measured by NHL officials. The pads were less than the maximum 12 inches.

"I knew they were good," Tabaracci said. "Still, I was sweating while they measured them."

INJURY UPDATE: Lightning center Brian Bradley is not practicing but could return soon. Goalie Daren Puppa is practicing but may not be back soon.

Bradley, out since Jan. 9 with torn ligaments in his right wrist, will begin stick-handling Friday. He said he may be able to return, provided the Lightning is alive for a playoff berth.

Puppa said his back remains sore and does not know if or when he can return. Puppa is concerned he is not well enough to be effective. "If I can't be out there helping the team, there's not much use being out there."

ODDS AND ENDS: ESPN used Tuesday night's game to experiment with a roving camera similar to the one used by NBC during broadcasts of NBA games. The Sky Cam was suspended by four wires above the ice and was moved by remote control. Tampa Bay is 9-0-1 on Tuesdays with four shutouts. "Hopefully we can schedule all our playoff games for Tuesdays, as well," Tabaracci said. Dino Ciccarelli took 10 stitches and had a lump the size of a golf ball above his right eye after he was hit by a puck in the second period. "It looks nasty and it feels nasty," he said. "Man, what a headache."

_ TOM JONES

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