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Senators-Panthers Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Ottawa Senators (41-14-5) at Florida Panthers (23-29-9).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Ottawa Senators have not taken a step back because of Dominik Hasek's absence. Instead, they continue to push for the Eastern Conference lead behind Ray Emery.

Hasek's backup tries to win his sixth straight start as the Senators look to push their winning streak to six in a matchup with the Florida Panthers.

Emery took over after Hasek injured his groin Feb. 15 in his first Olympic game with the Czech Republic, winning each of the Panthers' four games since the break. During his five consecutive victories, Emery has posted a 1.60 goals-against average.

Emery made 31 saves for his second shutout of the season Monday, 4-0 on the road over Tampa Bay. He has made at least 24 saves in each of his last five games.

"I'm excited every time I get a chance to play right now," said Emery, a fourth-round draft pick of the Senators in 1999. "It's a new experience for me."

Emery's latest win enabled Ottawa to increase its point total to 87, three fewer than East leader Carolina. The Hurricanes have managed to hold off the Senators with a five-game winning streak of their own.

"Ray really battles and is playing well," said Ottawa coach Bryan Murray, whose team leads the NHL in goals scored (242) and fewest allowed (143). "He looks very confident now in his play. (The Lightning) had some chances and he did a real good job. Emery just wouldn't give anything up."

The Senators have outscored opponents 22-8 during their win streak.

Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza each have five-game point streaks, while Zdeno Chara, Mike Fisher and Brian Pothier have at least a point in their last four. Pothier has recorded at least two points in three of his last four games.

The Senators' top line of Spezza (three goals, two assists), Heatley (three goals, four assists) and Daniel Alfredsson (one goal, four assists) has totaled seven goals and 10 assists during the five-game streak.

The Senators are looking for their first six-game win streak since Nov. 17-29. They also opened the season with six victories.

Ottawa has defeated Florida five straight times. The Senators have won eight in a row at the Bank Atlantic Center, with their last loss there coming Oct. 28, 2000.

The Panthers dropped their third in a row Monday, 4-3 in a shootout at Atlanta. Olli Jokinen scored his 28th and 29th goals and added an assist for the Panthers, while Roberto Luongo made 27 saves.

With 55 points, Florida is 13th in the Eastern Conference and has little chance of making the playoffs.

"If anybody quits, they're going to hear about it in this dressing room," center Chris Gratton said. "We're professionals. We're paid to be professionals, and your job is to come here and give 110 percent every night."

STANDINGS: Senators - 87 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Panthers - 55 points, 4th place, 35 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Heatley, 36 goals; Spezza, 47 assists; Alfredsson, 78 points; Chris Neil, 157 PIM. Panthers - Jokinen, 29 goals, 35 assists and 64 points; Gratton, 92 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 20.7 percent (74 for 357), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.4 percent (310 for 363), 3rd. Panthers - Power play: 15.3 percent (48 for 314), 26th. Penalty killing: 82.5 percent (321 for 389), 15th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Emery (13-4-1, 2 SO, 2.76 GAA); Hasek (28-10-4, 5, 2.09). Panthers - Luongo (23-25-9, 4, 2.96); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 3.09).

SEASON SERIES: Senators, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 5; Senators, 6-3. At Sunrise, Fla., rookie Brandon Bochenski had his first career hat trick and Hasek made 26 saves for Ottawa, which scored five straight goals after falling behind 2-1 in the first period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 18-8-4 on the road; Panthers - 15-8-4 at home.

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