|OTT||0||3||2||(0 - 0)||5|
|MIN||3||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
The Ottawa Senators are on their longest winning streak of the season, but they'll need a much bigger run if they hope to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
The Minnesota Wild, meanwhile, are in a battle for a postseason spot in the West.
Ottawa will try to win four straight games for the first time in more than a year when it continues a five-game trip Saturday night, but its beleaguered offense will be tested by the Wild's stingy defense.
Plagued by inconsistent goal-scoring all season, the Senators (20-25-8) have settled into the Northeast Division cellar after qualifying for their 11th straight postseason last spring.
While that streak still seems likely to end, Ottawa has finally shown signs of life lately, winning three in a row for the first time in 2008-09 and opening its swing with victories at Buffalo and Philadelphia. The Senators had been just 6-16-3 on the road entering the trip.
"It's definitely not out of the question," captain Daniel Alfredsson said of a playoff berth. "It's possible. We won the first two games of this road trip. Who knows? We just can't look too far ahead."
Perhaps the best sign came in Thursday's 5-2 win over the Flyers, just the sixth time this season Ottawa has scored at least that many goals. Still, the Senators are still among the bottom four teams in the league with 2.42 goals per game.
But coach Cory Clouston said "the goals came naturally" in his fifth game since replacing the fired Craig Hartsburg on Feb. 1. Clouston is 3-1-1.
After managing one goal and two assists in his previous eight games, Dany Heatley scored twice for the Senators, who were coming off a 3-1 victory over the Sabres. Rookie Brian Elliott was outstanding in both games, stopping a combined 66 of 69 shots.
"We've beaten two pretty good teams the last couple of days," Heatley said. "We are feeling good about ourselves."
Another victory Saturday would give the Senators their first four-game winning streak since a six-game run in December 2007. That's also the last time they won three straight on the road.
It's been more than three years since the Senators last played at the Xcel Energy Center, where they beat Minnesota 6-1 on Jan. 16, 2006. They won 5-3 in the most recent meeting in Ottawa on Nov. 20, 2006.
Looking for their third straight postseason appearance, the Wild (28-23-3) also come in desperate for points as part of a crowded West race. They're currently in playoff position, although five teams - all within four or fewer points - are chasing them.
They had won back-to-back games at home before losing 4-2 at Detroit on Thursday, as Minnesota gave up four or more goals for just the 10th time this season.
"It's always a little tough playing against those guys," backup goalie Josh Harding said of the defending Stanley Cup champions. "They have a lot of skill."
With the second-best team goals-against average in the league (2.28), the Wild should still present a challenge for Ottawa, especially with starter Niklas Backstrom likely back in net.
Backstrom is 11-5-0 with a 1.98 GAA since Dec. 31. He has never faced the Senators.
Minnesota opens a three-game homestand with a 17-10-3 record in St. Paul, including four wins in its last five there.
|Feb 14 '09||OTT 5 at MIN 3||D. Alfredsson|