The New York Islanders are the only team in the NHL that has already been eliminated from postseason contention. Though the Ottawa Senators will likely be joining them in the lottery, they haven't been playing like it lately.
The Senators look to improve to 8-1-0 since March 5 and avoid getting swept by the Islanders for the first time in franchise history when the teams meet Saturday night in Ottawa.
Ottawa (30-30-10) is on track to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season. Though their postseason streak appears to be coming to an end, the Senators plan on ending the season on a high note.
They've gone 7-1-0 over their last eight games, and the only loss in that stretch was a 5-3 defeat on the road against Eastern Conference-leading Boston.
In Ottawa's last game Thursday night, Jason Spezza scored two first-period goals and Daniel Alfredsson added a goal and an assist in a 5-4 victory over Montreal. Nick Foligno and Jarkko Ruutu also scored in the Senators' third straight win.
Ottawa is in 12th place in the East with 70 points, 11 behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"Every time you put your gear on, it doesn't matter what the situation is, you want to win the game," Ruutu said. "We don't really look at the standings, we just take it a game at a time and you never know, magic might happen, but it's not really something you worry about too much."
Even magic can't save the Islanders (24-39-8), who will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. New York has shown signs of improvement lately, going 6-3-1 in its last 10 games, but the Islanders fell short in a 5-4 loss at Carolina on Friday night.
New York scored four straight goals in the second period to overcome a 2-0 first-period deficit before giving the lead back in the third.
"I think it shows we have a lot of potential and we can score goals," winger Tim Jackman said. "When we're doing the right things, good things happen."
The Islanders hope to bounce back by continuing their strong play against the Senators. They've won the teams' first three meetings by a combined 10-5 score and can complete their first sweep of Ottawa with a victory Saturday.
The Senators, though, have to like their chances behind goaltender Brian Elliott, who's set a team rookie record with seven straight wins. Elliott is 14-4-3 with a 2.70 goals-against average in 25 games since he was called up from Binghamton of the AHL in January.
New York's Yann Danis will likely return to the net Saturday after sitting out Friday's game. Danis, who's 4-2-0 with a 2.01 GAA over his last six games, has never faced the Senators.
This is the teams' first meeting since the Islanders traded center Mike Comrie and defenseman Chris Campoli to the Senators for center Dean McAmmond and a first-round draft pick Feb. 20.
Since the trade, Comrie has two goals and three assists in 11 games, and Campoli has three goals and five assists in 13 games. The Senators are 8-4-1 since the former Islanders made their debuts Feb. 21 against Montreal.
McAmmond has two goals and five assists in 12 games with the Islanders.