PITTSBURGH -- If patterns always held true, the Ottawa Senators could be assured of winning Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final on Sunday at PPG Paints Arena, simply because it's their turn.
The Senators won Games 1 and 3 in the best-of-seven series, with the Pittsburgh Penguins taking Games 2 and 4. Each team is 1-1 at home and on the road.
Neither team, however, is willing to take anything for granted.
"Well, we're at where we're at, 2-2," Ottawa defenseman Dion Phaneuf said Saturday, a travel day for both clubs with no practice for either. "The way you look at the series is we expected it to be a tough, long series, as we've expected the other series that we played in."
This one is going at least six games, and that's if one of the teams can win two in row for the first time. Otherwise, it will end in Game 7, scheduled for Thursday in Pittsburgh if needed.
The Penguins will be looking to break the pattern of alternating wins and be the first this series to win two straight following a 3-2 victory on Friday at Canadian Tire Centre.
"We need to find a way to maintain that sense of urgency, that desperation," Pittsburgh center and captain Sidney Crosby said. "We're deeper into the series now, so that's got to be there.
"I think seeing the way we played (Friday), hopefully that's something we can build off of."
Not if the Senators can help it. They don't want any momentum to carry over.
"You think, 'Oh, they played a great game, so the next game they're going to win,'" Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. "They don't. It's just because the other team has push-back. It's all about desperation at this time of the year."
While both teams have dealt with injuries, Pittsburgh, in particular, has had to overcome a depleted defensive corps. The Penguins have almost gotten used to -- although they are not thrilled about -- playing with only five defensemen because of injuries.
On Friday, it was Chad Ruhwedel who left the game. He has been diagnosed with a concussion, which would make playing in Game 6 seem like a longshot. Veteran Mark Streit probably will slot in.
"Obviously, you don't want to be doing that," Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta said of rotating five defensemen. "It's going to wear you down during the playoffs."
Pittsburgh has played all of the postseason without Kris Letang (neck disk surgery) and has not had Justin Schultz (upper body) the last two games. Schultz's status for Sunday is unclear, as is that of Penguins forwards Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Bryan Rust (upper body) and Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body).
Ottawa's injury situation looks brighter. Alex Burrows, who left Game 3 because of a lower-body injury, and defenseman Mark Borowiecki, out since the first round of the playoffs because of a lower-body injury, are possibilities to return.
While the injury status trend is one that favors Ottawa, the winner Sunday will have highly favorable odds on its side. According to the NHL, the Game 5 winner of a 2-2 series has gone on to claim that series 198 of 252 times, a .786 winning percentage, including 5-0 this postseason.
There is one other pattern of sorts that Boucher sees in the series. Wins have come honestly, and neither team has stolen one.
"I just think you look at the last four games, there was no luck involved," Boucher said. "Two games we won, we deserved. Two games they won, they deserved."