Season series: Third of four meetings this season. Each team has won in its opponent's building. Chris Kelly had the hat trick to lead Ottawa to a 3-1 victory at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5. Four days later, New York used a three-goal third period, highlighted by Michael Sauer's first NHL score, to record a 5-3 win at Scotiabank Place.
Big story: For most of the season the Rangers have had at least some cushion between themselves and the pack constituting the non-playoff teams. But after their third straight loss on Thursday night and Carolina's overtime win, the Blueshirts find themselves in eighth place and only two points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo. Playing last-place Ottawa gives them the opportunity to right the ship, but keep in mind the Senators come off a win Thursday and also defeated first-place Philadelphia last weekend.
Rangers: It appeared New York had the advantage playing a Minnesota team that struggled mightily in losing on Long Island on Wednesday and was in action for the second straight night, and the Rangers capitalized early by taking the early lead on a Sean Avery goal. But they were stymied from that point on by an old nemesis, goalie Jose Theodore, who stopped the other 40 shots he faced and improved to 9-0-1 career at the Garden as he dealt the Rangers a 3-1 defeat.
"We worked hard, but it's the same thing," Brandon Dubinsky said. "We generated chances, but we just didn't find a way to bury them."
Senators: While it might have appeared to some that Ottawa packed the season in after trading numerous veterans prior to the Feb. 28 deadline, the Senators brought in an impact goaltender in Craig Anderson who has led them to four wins in six games and made them competitive even in defeat. Anderson was the X-factor again in facing Atlanta, making 42 saves to ensure goals by Colin Greening, Bobby Butler and Nick Foligno were more than enough on the offensive side.
"Craig is in a zone right now," coach Cory Clouston said. "They were putting a lot of pucks and bodies at the net."
Who's hot:Erik Christensen has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last four games for the Rangers. ... Anderson has a 1.16 goals-against average and .966 save percentage since joining the Senators.
Injury report: New York goalie Martin Biron (broken collarbone) and forward Marian Gaborik (concussion) are out indefinitely. Forwards Chris Drury (knee), Derek Boogaard (shoulder/concussion) and Alex Frolov (knee) are on injured reserve. ... Ottawa defenseman Matt Carkner is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Forwards Daniel Alfredsson (back), Peter Regin (shoulder) and Milan Michalek (foot) are out indefinitely.
Stat pack: Dubinsky played in his 300th NHL game Thursday and finished with a season-high eight shots. ... Greening, a rookie out of Cornell, scored his first NHL goal Thursday in his eighth game while logging a personal-best 18:01 of ice time.
Puck drop: New York coach John Tortorella needs to get some of his goal scorers going again before they start to feel the pressure of their individual slumps along with the collective one by the team.
"I think some guys are already," Tortorella said. "Am I worried about that? Sure, because I think they care. Guys that care when they're not getting done, they try to do more, and that's what pressing is."