The Boston Bruins are doing their best to remain in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. They're on the type of run the Ottawa Senators need if they want to recapture the conference's top spot.
Coming off one of their most embarrassing losses of the season, the Senators look to at least keep pace in the race for the East's No. 1 seed on Tuesday night when they face a Bruins team returning from a strong road trip.
Ottawa (36-20-6) blew an opportunity to move back atop the East, losing 5-0 to last-place Toronto on Monday.
The Senators, who got off to an NHL record 13-1-0 start, remain atop the Northeast Division with 78 points. But that is one less than New Jersey, which took over the East lead Sunday with an overtime win against Washington. The Devils play at Carolina on Tuesday.
Ottawa had held at least a share of first place in the conference since the second day of the season.
"We've been there all year and we know our play has slipped as of late, and the only way you can cure that is to get wins," Senators defenseman Luke Richardson said. "Now we're below, so now we have something to strive for."
|The Bruins and Senators will be scrambling for very important playoff points as the two Eastern Conference-rivals face off at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston tonight. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)
Ottawa is 7-11-2, including a 3-5-1 mark on the road, since winning four straight from Jan. 4-12. Each of the Senators' last two losses have been against teams currently out of playoff position.
Now, Ottawa faces a Boston team that has been able to stay in the thick of the race partly because of a 4-0-1 road trip. The Bruins (32-23-6) are in seventh place with 70 points, one ahead of Philadelphia and Buffalo, which are both idle on Tuesday.
Boston, though, has lost four straight at home against Ottawa and has dropped four in a row there overall. The Senators are 3-1-0 against the Bruins this season, with two of those contests played at the TD Banknorth Garden.
But the Senators have not been getting steady play in goal. Ray Emery is coming off his fifth straight start, with Ottawa trying to hand him the No. 1 job, but he stopped just 16 shots versus the Maple Leafs.
Martin Gerber, who is scheduled to start against the Bruins, relieved Emery after the second period and stopped all six shots he faced. Gerber has started all four games against Boston this season, posting a 1.97 goals-against average.
The Bruins, however, have scored nine goals in regulation in their last two games. Glen Murray had two goals to lead Boston past Tampa Bay 5-3 on Saturday, two days after a 5-4 shootout win over Florida.
Milan Lucic, Mark Stuart and P.J. Axelsson also scored Saturday for the Bruins, who completed their best road trip since going 5-1-0 with one tie from Feb. 14-27, 1994.
"We did what we wanted to do, and we're going home having got some big points," Boston goaltender Alex Auld said. "Sometimes coming home off a good road trip can be a little bit of a trap. You've got to make sure you're not too satisfied and make sure we don't let up at all."