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Senators, Panthers need points to climb back in race

by Brian Hunter

SENATORS (10-13-4) at PANTHERS (7-15-5)


Last 10: Ottawa 3-7-0; Florida 4-5-1

Season series: This is the second of four games the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers will play. Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad scored in the first 2:04 and the Senators held off the Panthers 3-2 on Nov. 9 in Ottawa.

Big story: Two-thirds of the season remains, but these teams have their work cut out if they want to climb back into the Stanley Cup Playoff picture. The Senators are seven points behind the fifth-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division, and the Panthers are 12 points out of a postseason berth.

Team Scope:

Senators: Life gets back to normal for Ottawa after the hoopla surrounding Daniel Alfredsson's return to Canada's capital city Sunday. The Senators start a two-game Florida road trip and can look to their 6-5-2 record away from Canadian Tire Centre this season as encouragement.

Home ice hasn't been nearly so kind; a 4-2 loss to Alfredsson and the Detroit Red Wings dropped them to 4-8-2 in their own building. Clarke MacArthur continued his hot start with a goal, and Zibanejad scored, but overall the Senators continue to search for answers.

"We're not doing it hard enough," coach Paul MacLean said in the Ottawa Citizen. "We need to be harder. That might be harsh to say. We can look at the stat sheet and say it flattered us a little bit with the shots on goal or this and that. But at the end of the day, we didn't do enough to win. Is that playing harder? Is that work ethic? Is that being smarter? It's all of the above, I would say. But if we were to categorize it under one term, we need to play harder."

Panthers: There are two dates remaining on a five-game homestand for Florida, which is trying to get back in the groove it found briefly after Peter Horachek replaced Kevin Dineen as coach. The Panthers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 to start the run at BB&T Center, but they've lost their past two by a combined 10-3 score against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Though the offense has struggled and ranks 28th in the NHL at 2.11 goals per game, leading scorer Scottie Upshall had a big month of November, with six goals and 12 points in 14 games.

"We got guys here that have a lot of upside," Upshall told the team website. "We got a lot of young, good players that are going to be better professionals and better pros in the short term and in the long term."

Who's hot: Zibanejad has goals in three consecutive games for the Senators. His eight goals in 19 games are one more than he scored in 42 games as a rookie. … Upshall has goals in consecutive games for the Panthers.

Injury report: Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot (flu symptoms) took part in the morning skate Tuesday and MacLean said he was confident Methot would be available to play. … Florida defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hip) and Matt Gilroy (lower body) and forwards Steven Pinizzotto (hip) and Tomas Kopecky (upper body) are on injured reserve.

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