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Senators' win puts them on top in Northeast

by John Kreiser
With three weeks left in the regular season, the surprising Ottawa Senators find themselves in first place in the Northeast Division.

The Senators jumped over Boston on Friday night by outlasting the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime before a packed house at Scotiabank Place. The win gives the Senators 84 points, one more than the Bruins -- though Boston does have two games in hand.

Ottawa overcame a dreadful night by its power play, which went 0-for-9 and allowed a shorthanded goal, thanks to a third-period goal by Colin Greening that forced OT and Filip Kuba's game-winner 3:07 into the extra period.

"It's obviously good; we'll enjoy it tonight," coach Paul MacLean said. "The team has worked real hard. We've said all along, ‘We don't know where we're going to be until we play 82 games.' Once we do that, we'll see where we are and go from there."

With 11 games on Saturday's schedule, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after the five played on Friday:


Division leaders:

New York Rangers (95 points) had captain Ryan Callahan (foot), defenseman Michael Del Zotto (hip) and No. 1 goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (flu) back on the ice at Friday's practice -- but were missing center Artem Anisimov (shoulder) and forward Ruslan Fedotenko (flu), both of whom left Thursday's game, as well as defenseman Steve Eminger. No word yet if any of them will be ready for Saturday's home game against Colorado.

Ottawa (84 points after Friday's 2-1 overtime win against Montreal) survived the worst showing by a power play this season -- 0-for-9 and a shorthanded goal allowed. But they limited the Canadiens to just 14 shots, making life easy for goaltender Ben Bishop, who is 3-0-2 since joining the Senators. The Senators are back on the ice Saturday when Toronto comes to Scotiabank Place.

Florida (81 points) goes for a sweep of its four-game homestand when Buffalo comes to the BankAtlantic Center.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (91 points)
got good news at Friday's practice -- Sidney Crosby came through his return to action on Thursday in top shape. He and the Penguins will try for their 11th straight win Saturday in New Jersey.

Philadelphia (89 points) begins a tough weekend with a visit to Boston on Saturday afternoon before hosting Pittsburgh on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, NHLN-Canada, RDSI).

New Jersey (87 points) will be wearing their retro uniforms when Pittsburgh comes to Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon -- the Devils trot out their original red-and-green outfits once a year.

Boston (83 points) was on the ice practicing Friday, only about 12 hours after arriving home following Thursday's 6-2 wipeout in Florida. The Bruins worked on defensive-zone coverage as they try to end a four-game slide when Philadelphia comes to TD Garden on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

Washington (78 points after Friday's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg) couldn't hold off the desperate Jets and saw their lead in the race for eighth place reduced to two points. The Caps got goals by Brooks Laich and Mathieu Perreault, but they never led. Washington is off Saturday before visiting Chicago on Sunday night.

On the outside looking in:

Winnipeg (76 points after Friday's 3-2 win against Washington)
won a game it had to when Dustin Byfuglien scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period. A regulation loss would have dropped Winnipeg six points out of eighth; instead, the Jets trail Washington by just two points entering Sunday's home game against Carolina.

Buffalo (75 points) is off until visiting Florida on Saturday. The Sabres hope to have forward Andrej Sekera back in the lineup -- he has missed Buffalo's last five games with pneumonia.


Division leaders:

St. Louis (98 points) will have 2010 first-round pick Jaden Schwartz in the lineup Saturday at Tampa Bay. Schwartz signed with the Blues earlier this week after piling up 41 points in 30 games as a sophomore at Colorado College.

Vancouver (92 points) wraps up its seven-game homestand when last-place Columbus comes to Rogers Arena on Saturday night. The Canucks need a victory to post a winning record on their longest homestand of the season.

Dallas (83 points after Friday's 4-1 loss to Chicago) was down two goals before the game was two minutes old and never shook off the early shock. Jamie Benn's goal late in the third period averted a shutout. The Stars, playing their third game in four days, now get a break until Phoenix comes to the American Airlines Center on Tuesday.

The next five:

Detroit (91 points)
may have star center Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup Saturday night in San Jose -- but might be without Johan Franzen. The Wings' top goal-scorer left Friday's practice early with back problems and is questionable for the game against the Sharks.

Nashville (90 points) open a back-to-back set with a visit to Los Angeles on Saturday before wrapping up a four-game trip in Anaheim on Sunday. They are 6-2-0 in the front end when playing on consecutive nights this season, but just 3-5-0 on the back end.

Chicago (86 points after Friday's 4-1 win at Dallas) stunned the Stars when Dave Bolland scored 10 seconds into the game and Patrick Sharp got the first of his pair just 92 seconds later. Marian Hossa and Sharp scored just over a minute apart early in the third period to give Corey Crawford (20 saves) plenty of support.

Phoenix (81 points) had the first of two off-days before wrapping up a Western Canada trip in Edmonton on Sunday.

Colorado (81 points) had a much-needed day off on Friday before visiting the Rangers on Saturday night. The Avs needed a breather after splitting shootout decisions in Buffalo on Wednesday and New Jersey on Thursday.

On the outside looking in:

San Jose (80 points)
has gotten five of the last six possible points entering Saturday's game against Detroit. But the Sharks are still struggling to score; they managed only one non-shootout goal against Nashville on Thursday and have just 13 in their last nine games. The best aspect of the race for the Sharks: They have games in hand on all of the other playoff contenders.

Los Angeles (80 points after Friday's 4-2 win at Anaheim) led 3-0 after one period but had to survive a late push by the Ducks, who cut the Kings' lead to one goal early in the third period and had some chances to tie the game before Mike Richards hit the empty net. The Kings are home on Saturday night to host Nashville.

Calgary (80 points after Friday's 3-1 loss at Edmonton) missed a chance to move into seventh place in the conference when it couldn't beat the 14th-place Oilers. Calgary had to kill off six penalties while earning only one power play and never could dig out after allowing Edmonton to skate off with a 2-0 lead after the first period. The Flames host Columbus on Sunday.
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