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The Carolina Hurricanes' recent success has them moving up the Eastern Conference standings. The Ottawa Senators have played even better of late, but are likely to miss the playoffs the first time in 12 seasons.
On Wednesday night, two of the NHL's hottest teams look to extend winning streaks as they conclude the season series at the RBC Center.
Carolina (40-28-7) tries for a season-high fifth straight victory after winning 3-2 in overtime at Florida on Monday. The result moved the Hurricanes to fifth in the East and three points behind fourth-place Philadelphia with seven games remaining.
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"We're winning some games the ugly way, we're winning some pretty games," said Ray Whitney after scoring the winner for Carolina, which improved to 8-1-2 in March. "We're winning in a bunch of different fashions."
The Hurricanes hope to get back on the winning track against Ottawa (32-30-10), which has won the last two meetings, but hopes to avoid losing three in a row at Carolina. The Senators fell 2-1 there on Nov. 7.
The Senators also will try for a season-high sixth straight victory after winning 2-1 over the New York Rangers on Sunday to open a six-game road trip.
With 10 games left, Ottawa is nine points behind Montreal for the final playoff spot in the East. The Senators, who reached the Stanley Cup finals two years ago, haven't missed the postseason since 1995-96.
"You lose one game here and there, and mathematically you could be out of it," Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "Our approach is to just win every game and keep this positive thing going."
Despite being held without a point against the Rangers, Alfredsson has two goals and five assists in his last four games overall and four assists against Carolina this season. He had two of them in the Senators' 4-2 home win over the Hurricanes on Feb. 24 in the teams' most recent meeting.
Rookie Brian Elliott made 23 saves in Ottawa's 5-1 win over Carolina on Jan. 13 and is expected to be in goal trying for his ninth straight victory after sitting out Sunday. Elliott is 15-4-3 with a 2.67 goals-against average.
Mike Comrie, who had a goal versus the Hurricanes last month, scored against New York after the flu kept him out of the previous three games for the Senators, who are 9-1-0 since losing three in a row.
"The odds are still really against us, and what's been working for us is thinking about the next game," forward Jason Spezza told the Senators' official Web site."That's how we've been winning and there's no point in changing now."
Carolina hopes to change that as it tries to return to the postseason for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2005-06.
Tuomo Ruutu matched a career high with his 23rd goal and Cam Ward made 37 saves in his 22nd consecutive start Monday for Carolina, which plays five of its final seven at home.
Ruutu has two goals in his last three games while Whitney has six and 11 assists in 11 contests this month. Both, however, have combined for one assist against Ottawa this season.
Ward is 34-22-5 with a 2.50 GAA overall, but 0-2-0 with a 6.00 GAA against the Senators this season.