With just six games left in the regular season, the Ottawa Senators aren't panicking, but they're also not playing with the same confidence they had a month ago.
|Martin Gerber was pulled in last night's 7-5 loss to the Canadiens but is 3-0-0 against the Sabres this year. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)
The Senators look to regroup from another disappointing loss and get things turned around before the playoffs when they open a home-and-home series against the Sabres Tuesday in Buffalo.
On Feb. 23, Ottawa (41-28-7) sat atop the Eastern Conference with 78 points and had a three-point lead over second-place Montreal in the Northeast Division. The Senators have gone 5-8-1 since then, however, and are now fifth in the conference following Monday's 7-5 loss to the Canadiens, who became the first team in the East to clinch a playoff spot.
Ottawa, which fell behind 7-1 in the second period Monday, is seven points back of Montreal.
"We've still got some games left," Ottawa's Jason Spezza said. "If we win five of the next six then we'll have some momentum going in. It all depends how you look at it but we know we have to get better, and we know we can't give up early goals to teams. It's no time to panic, we just have to get things going a little bit."
Goaltender Martin Gerber made his 11th consecutive start Monday, but was pulled before the second period after stopping 11 of 14 shots. Gerber, who allowed five goals in Saturday's loss to Toronto, is 1-2-0 with a 4.54 goals-against average in his last four starts.
He shouldn't mind seeing the Sabres since he is 3-0-0 with a 2.28 GAA in three starts against them this season.
Ottawa is 4-2-0 versus the Sabres in 2007-08, winning its last two trips to Buffalo (35-29-11). The Senators have lost two straight road games, however, and are just 3-8-2 away from Ottawa since the beginning of February.
Dany Heatley, who scored his 38th and 39th goals Monday, has eight goals and two assists in his last seven games. Heatley has three goals and four assists in six games against the Sabres this season.
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who had three assists Monday, has six goals and an assist in six games versus Buffalo in 2007-08.
|Thomas Vanek recorded a hat trick the last time he faced the Senators on Feb. 12. (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Spezza scored his 32nd goal of the season on Monday, extending his point streak to seven games. Spezza, who leads the Senators with 55 assists and 87 points, has five goals and five assists during his run.
The Sabres return to the ice after a three-day break, also looking to bounce back from a loss.
After outscoring their opponents 20-7 during a three-game winning streak, Buffalo fell to Toronto 4-1 on Friday. The Sabres are 10th in the East, three points behind Boston for the final playoff spot.
"We have to take care of our own business," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "There's nothing we can do looking at the outside anymore."
Ryan Miller stopped 20 shots on Friday after posting a 2.33 GAA during the three-game win streak. Miller is 2-2-0 with a 2.90 GAA in five starts versus Ottawa this season.
Thomas Vanek scored the Sabres' lone goal Friday after recording a hat trick in Wednesday's 7-4 win over Tampa Bay. Vanek, who has 32 goals on the season, also had a hat trick in Buffalo's last game against the Senators, a 5-1 win on Feb. 12.