PANTHERS (18-10-6) AT SENATORS (16-14-4)
TV: FS-Florida (HD); SNET-East
LAST 10: Florida 5-3-2, Ottawa 4-4-2
Season Series: This is the second meeting of four between the Senators and the Panthers. The Senators won 4-3 in Ottawa on Oct. 27. The Panthers have failed to beat the Senators in their last seven games.
Big Story: The Southeast Division-leading Panthers are looking to best the Senators for the first time in seven games on Thursday night as they begin a quick two-game trip before the Christmas break. Ottawa is trying to build on Tuesday's 4-1 win against Buffalo, a game that saw the Senators score three times in the third period.
Panthers: The Panthers continue to dominate the Southeast Division and enter Thursday with a seven-point lead despite losing four of their last six. Florida won back-to-back games over the weekend before falling 2-1 at home to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday. It was the Panthers' first loss in regulation in nine home games
"They played hard and we weren't able to find a way to pull it out in the end," coach Kevin Dineen said.
Defenceman Brian Campbell tallied Florida's lone goal. Jose Theodore played in net for the Panthers and made 20 saves in the loss. He has played five games straight and is 2-2-1 in that span.
The Panthers will play two games, including Thursday's contest with the Senators, before entering the short NHL Christmas break.
Senators: The Senators are looking for their third straight victory after beating Buffalo behind two goals from right winger Erik Condra.
One of Condra's goals — the game-winner — was set up by centre Kyle Turris, who was acquired in a trade from Phoenix on Saturday and was making his debut with Ottawa. Turris forced a turnover in the neutral zone and then rifled a shot from the point that Condra batted in.
"I thought Kyle was a real good player for us," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "He did a good job in the faceoff circle. I thought as the game wore on his game progressed. I thought it was a solid game by his line."
Tuesday's victory helped push the Senators ahead of the Sabres in the Eastern Conference standings. The Senators are eighth with 36 points — they're even with Toronto but have played one more game.
Who's Hot: This game features two of the NHL's top puck-moving defencemen. Campbell has points in back-to-back games and is second among all blueliners with 23 assists. The only defenceman with more is Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, who has 28 — including four (plus a goal) in his last two games.
Injury Report: Florida's Mikael Samuelsson was helped off the ice in the second period last game and did not return and left wing Sean Bergenheim missed last game because of a strained groin. Forwards Scottie Upshall (upper body), Marcel Goc (concussion-like symptoms) and Jack Skille (shoulder) are on injured reserve … Jesse Winchester was "concussed" during Tuesday's game, according to coach Paul MacLean. It was also revealed today that centre Peter Regin is out indefinitely with a recurrence of his left shoulder injury ... Winger Milan Michalek (concussion) won't play until next week.
Stat Pack: Ottawa has outscored Florida 28-13 during its seven-game winning streak against the Panthers … There have been 94 goals scored in the third period of Ottawa's 34 games, more than any period for any team this season. The Senators are tops in the league with 48 third-period goals, but the 46 they've allowed are more than any team except Carolina (48).
Puck Drop: Michalek, who led the NHL with 19 goals when he was injured, wore a no-contact jersey at Wednesday's practice, but is eager to get back into game action. However, he decided today his fitness level isn't where he needs it to be and will wait until at least Tuesday, when the Montreal Canadiens visit Scotiabank Place.
"I just want to see how it's going to be tomorrow, because this was just my first time back practicing with the guys and I skated pretty hard," he told the team's website. "My conditioning has to be better, too.
"I don't know if I'll be playing tomorrow, (Friday) or after Christmas. It all depends on how I'm going to feel tomorrow."