SENATORS (34-24-8) at PANTHERS (30-22-3)
TV: SNET-East, TVA, FS-Florida
: Ottawa 7-2-1; Florida 4-5-1
: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season, with Ottawa looking for a sweep. In the other meeting at BankAtlantic Center on Feb. 15, six different Senators scored in a 6-2 thrashing of the Panthers. Ottawa has won the last nine games between the teams and is 5-0-0 in its last five visits to the BankAtlantic Center.
Two teams currently in the top eight in the Eastern Conference are looking to bounce back after losses. Florida has dropped back-to-back games to Winnipeg and Nashville but still leads Winnipeg for first place in the Southeast by two points. The Senators, seventh in the East, begin a two-game trip through the Sunshine State after a 2-1 home loss to Chicago on Friday night.
Ottawa won five of six to close out February, moving the Senators within a point of sixth-place New Jersey in the East. On Friday, however, Ottawa couldn't capitalize on an early 1-0 lead against the Blackhawks and lost 2-1 at Scotiabank Place. Milan Michalek
put the Sens ahead at 15:35 of the first period, but Chicago answered with two second-period goals and held on for the victory. With starter Craig Anderson
on injured reserve with a lacerated right pinky, backup goalie Robin Lehner
made 37 saves but suffered his first loss in four starts this season.
"It's a tough loss," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "I think they did a good job of stretching the rink in the first 40 minutes. And I don't think until the third we kind of took command of the puck a little bit more and created more chances, but overall they were the better team."
Panthers: After Florida won three straight to close February and vault into the Southeast lead, March has brought two consecutive stumbles. Winnipeg routed the Panthers 7-0 on Thursday in Manitoba, and Nashville followed two nights later by handing Florida its fifth home loss in six outings, scoring a goal in each period for a 3-1 victory. Despite 40 shots, Wojtek Wolski scored the only goal for the Panthers. Scott Clemmensen made 20 saves for Florida.
"I think we could have had a better outcome," Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann said. "Forty shots, one goal, that's not good."
Who's Hot: Defenseman Erik Karlsson's red-hot point streak ended against the Hawks, Jason Spezza's assist on Michalek's goal extended his to 11 games (eight goals, 14 assists). Spezza has eight goals and 21 assists in 32 career games against Florida.
Injury Report: Aside from Anderson, Ottawa has gone without Jesse Winchester (concussion) and Peter Regin (left shoulder surgery) since December. … For Florida, Kris Versteeg will miss his fourth game with a lower-body injury, while Matt Bradley (upper body), Scottie Upshall (sports hernia surgery), Dmitry Kulikov (knee surgery) and Jacob Markstrom (knee) are all on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: While Ottawa has steadily improved offensively, improving to seventh League-wide in goals-per-game (2.96) and eighth on the power play (19.6 percent), Florida's attack has struggled mightily of late, scoring just one goal over its last two games. With leading scorer Versteeg temporarily sidelined, that trend looks likely to continue.
Puck Drop: Although he didn't earn a win, Lehner's 37 saves earned him the game's second star -- and some praise from his teammates.
"(Lehner) gave us a chance to come back," Alfredsson said. "He kept it close and we had a couple of chances. He did everything he could, obviously. He played a great game and made some spectacular saves. We just couldn't come up with that extra goal for him."