-- The Florida Panthers
have been struggling of late while trying to maintain or even extend their lead in the Southeast Division. They could hardly face a more difficult task Sunday in trying to get things turned around.
Not only is Florida playing the second of back-to-back games after dropping a 3-1 decision to Nashville on Saturday, the Panthers will be facing the Ottawa Senators
The Senators have owned Florida over the past three seasons, taking the last nine meetings. With a victory on Sunday, Ottawa would match Boston's dominance over Edmonton and Vancouver's over Toronto for the longest active winning streak by one team against another.
"Didn't even know that," Senators center Jason Spezza
said when the streak was brought to his attention. "It doesn't really play much of a factor. As players, you don't pay too much attention to that stuff, or the past, or how you've done against teams. You'd be surprised how short-sighted we can be at times. It's just the nature of the beast to just try to keep things rolling, especially when you're winning games."
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Ottawa is 3-0 against Florida this season, with two 4-3 victories at home and a 6-2 rout at the BankAtlantic Center on Feb. 15. The Senators won the first two games on a last-minute goal by Nick Foligno
and an overtime goal by Bobby Butler
The Panthers haven't beaten Ottawa since Tomas Vokoun
stopped 24 shots in a 3-0 shutout Jan. 9, 2010.
"We've just played them well," Spezza said. "We get off to leads and when you get off to leads, it's just tough. It's a tough league to come back in. We've had good starts against these guys. Our power play has been good against them, too. When your special teams give you goals early in games, it gives you confidence and it gets you moving the puck around. With our power play being as good as it's been lately, it's given us a little bit of confidence."
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson
doesn't quite know what to make of his team's dominance of Florida, especially this season. He says it's not necessarily an issue of the Senators matching up well with the Panthers.
"I think in the past we have, maybe not as much this year," Alfredsson said. "They're playing a much more gritty game. They don't give up as much as maybe they did in previous years. I don't think we match up really well, it's just one of those things where we've just made the most of our opportunities. Our goaltender has played really well when we've played them as well. Other than that, we don't think in our room that we've got an advantage over these guys.
"We've got to go out there and execute and play really hard. They play a gritty style and they play for 60 minutes. We've done a good job of being prepared against them."
The Panthers, who have dropped six of their last nine, maybe can gain some confidence from the fact that Edmonton beat Calgary on Feb. 21 to snap a nine-game losing streak against the Flames.
"Let's hope we don't make it 10," Florida center Shawn Matthias
said after the Feb. 15 game. "They're a team we have to play hard against. They're a team racing up the standings. We've got to be ready for those games."