Winning streaks are nothing new for the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators. The level of domination they are displaying, however, is anything but ordinary.
The surging Senators look to make it six straight wins Tuesday night when they visit their closest pursuers in the Northeast Division - the surprising Boston Bruins.
Ottawa (21-7-3) opened this season playing like it was poised for another run at a Stanley Cup, winning 16 of its first 19 games. The Senators, though, followed that with a seven-game losing streak that included five one-goal defeats.
Lately, the Senators have more resembled the team from the early part of the season, winning five straight by a combined 26-10. The run began with a 5-4 victory over Florida, and has included wins by scores of 4-2, 6-0, 4-1 and 7-3.
Dany Heatley scored twice, and Antoine Vermette had a goal and two assists Saturday as Ottawa coasted to a 7-3 rout of visiting Atlanta in its first home game in two weeks.
Martin Gerber turned away 22 shots to win his second straight start. He was helped by a defense that limited the Thrashers to six shots in each of the first two periods.
"The start was important for us," said center Jason Spezza, who had two assists. "I think we took a little bit of their will away and they seemed like they were tired a little bit and we got on them."
Heatley scored two goals for the third consecutive game, becoming the first player in franchise history to accomplish that feat. He has six goals in his last seven games against Boston (18-11-3).
There was, however, some bad news for the Senators, who likely will be without center Mike Fisher for at least the next two games. Fisher - fourth on the team with 20 points - has a strained oblique muscle and isn't expected to play Tuesday or Thursday at Atlanta.
Fisher joins an injury list that already includes defenseman Anton Volchenkov (finger) and right wing Patrick Eaves (shoulder).
"It's a substantial loss," Senators coach John Paddock told the team's official Web site. "I don't think you can put a value on it. There's no positive in having three of our top 10 players out of the lineup."
Hoping to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence, the Bruins have been one of the league's biggest surprises under new coach Claude Julien. They are 11-5-1 in the last 17 games, winning four of their past five.
Alex Auld continued his outstanding play with his fourth career shutout, and Jeremy Reich scored his first NHL goal in Boston's 2-0 victory Saturday over Columbus.
Auld, acquired from Phoenix on Dec. 6 after starter Tim Thomas went down with a strained groin, is 4-1-0 with a 1.40 goals-against average with the Bruins.
Julien has a decision to make because Thomas was activated from injured reserve on Saturday.
"Tim carried the load for us most of the year and Alex has stepped in and done a good job," Julien said. "Our goaltending is one of the reasons we are where we are right now."
Thomas has struggled lately against Ottawa, going 0-4-1 with a 3.17 GAA in his last five starts.
The Senators have won both games this season against the Bruins, including a 2-1 shootout victory at Boston on Nov. 4. Ottawa has won three straight and six of the last seven meetings.