WINNIPEG -- A win tonight against the Winnipeg Jets would provide the Ottawa Senators with some separation from one cluster of clubs and nudge them into a higher echelon.
A win would move the seventh-place Senators (38-28-10) four points ahead of the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres and to within two points of the sixth-place New Jersey Devils. They would also move to within three points of the Northeast Division lead the Boston Bruins hold at the moment.
Going against a desperate Winnipeg club poses a challenge for the Senators, they admit.
"They play hard and are desperate, just like we are," coach Paul MacLean said.
But Ottawa rebounded from a road shellacking against the Montreal Canadiens to take an 8-4 home decision over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. Captain Daniel Alfredsson registered a season-high four-point evening and six Senators managed multi-point nights.
"We hope that the big goal output that we had [against Pittsburgh] can give guys some confidence," leading scorer Jason Spezza said. "I think it was a pretty good bounce-back game for us, a good character game for us."
The win cost the Senators the services of goaltender Ben Bishop, who exited the game with a lower-body injury. Bishop's absence means that Craig Anderson, who missed 12 games with a hand injury before returning last week, will start tonight's game. Alex Auld will back up Anderson.
After tonight's game, the Senators do not resume play until Saturday, when they visit Philadelphia, and will have just five games remaining.
"Desperate teams are tough to play against," Nick Foligno said. "They're fighting for their lives, and we have to treat it the same way for us. We're a desperate hockey team as well. It's a tight race for us. It's a push to the playoffs for us, as well."
Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Senators:
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Kaspars Daugavins - Erik Condra
Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner