Senators return home to face Hurricanes
HURRICANES (31-32-16) at SENATORS (41-28-10)
TV: FS-CR (HD), SNET-E (HD), TVA
Carolina 4-5-1; Ottawa 5-3-2
Fourth and final meeting between the teams this season. Ottawa won the first two matchups, Carolina the most recent, but that was all the way back on Dec. 23. All three games were decided by a single goal, one in overtime and another in a shootout. Jason Spezza
has three goals to lead the Sabres, while Tuomo Ruutu paces the Hurricanes with two goals and four points.
Thanks to a four-game winning streak that continued with matinee wins this past weekend over the Flyers and Islanders, the Senators have wrapped up a trip back to the Stanley Cup playoffs after missing out last season. They're seventh in the Eastern Conference right now, but could still rise up to sixth or drop to eighth depending on how well they and their rivals in the standings play this final week of the regular season.
One night after blowing a two-goal lead and losing to Tampa Bay in overtime to be officially eliminated, Carolina showed little life in a 5-0 home loss to New Jersey. Backup goalie Brian Boucher got a rare start in place of Cam Ward and was impressive in holding the Hurricanes in the game in the first period, but the Devils poured it on in the second to pull away.
"I thought we had a decent start in the first five minutes or so, and after that they seemed to take over," Boucher said. "They just kept coming in waves. They got a goal before the end of the period and scored two quick ones in the second and that was pretty much it."
Jeff Skinner summed it up even more succinctly: "They walked all over us," he said. "It was kind of embarrassing."
Twenty-four hours after blowing a three-goal lead in Philadelphia and having to pull out a second point via the shootout, Ottawa had an easier time of things Sunday afternoon on Long Island. The Senators allowed the opening goal to Mark Streit, but Kyle Turris
would start and close an offensive burst in a 5-1 win that allowed them to clinch a playoff berth. Turris also assisted on Sergei Gonchar
's power-play goal, Milan Michalek
and Nick Foligno
found the back of the net and Craig Anderson
turned aside 29 shots.
"What a great feeling this is, to know we are in the playoffs," said Turris, who finished with four points. "It was fun skating on a line with Milan tonight and doing so well. Definitely, this is a satisfying night for me."
Turris has four goals and four assists in his last four games for the Senators. Michalek has three goals and five assists in his last five games. Anderson has posted a .934 save percentage in winning four consecutive starts.
Carolina defenceman Jaroslav Spacek (lower body) and forward Andreas Nodl (concussion-like symptoms) are sidelined ... Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson
missed Sunday's game due to illness.
The Hurricanes have the fifth-fewest penalty minutes in the NHL with 733 and their leader in that category, defenceman Bryan Allen, has only 72 ... The Senators are averaging 3.02 goals per game this season, fourth in the league.
First-year coach Paul MacLean praised his players not only for Sunday's efforts in the absence of not only Alfredsson but top scorer Spezza, who wasn't with the team due to the birth of a child.
"We knew we were missing two key guys but we played a very solid and focused team game," MacLean said. "The leadership on our team did a tremendous job all season to pull us up by our bootstraps and create a winning foundation."