The Senators came close to losing another important player -- with an all-too-familiar injury -- 48 hours before a game where his skills are most needed and appreciated.

What would the Battle of Ontario be without Chris Neil, whose scowling, scarred game face is the link between glorious Senators-Leafs showdowns from the past and present-day meetings that -- with both teams returning to relevance in the Eastern Conference -- are once again something to get excited about?

You would have found out had the skate blade of a sliding Ranger dug a little deeper into Neil's lower leg Thursday night. As it turned out, the veteran winger needed only a couple of stitches and he was back in the thick of things, finishing with two assists in a 3-0 Ottawa win. But for a brief moment at the time of the incident, Neil thought his Achilles tendon might be sliced the way Erik Karlsson's was in Pittsburgh last month.

"It crossed my mind, for sure," Neil said. "I was lucky."

At 33, Neil is having another exceptional season. In 34 games, while averaging a little more than 14 minutes a night, he has three goals, 10 points and a plus-4 rating -- all the while doing what he does best, as good or better than ever.