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Panthers hope to solve visiting Sens

The Florida Panthers are in position to win four in a row for the first time this season, but to do so they'll need to beat the Ottawa Senators for the first time in nine meetings.

That's the task for the Panthers tonight as they open up a four-game homestand fresh off a successful trip to the Northeast over the weekend.

Florida kicked off its current winning streak with a home victory over Los Angeles on Thursday, then erased a pair of early deficits to beat New Jersey and the New York Islanders on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Panthers allowed the first goal in both games, but has still won three straight for the first time since Dec. 3-8.

On Sunday versus the Islanders, Tyson Strachan scored his first career goal to tie things in the first period before Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg and Jack Skille all tallied in the middle frame. Skille lit the lamp in his return from a seven-game absence due to a shoulder injury, while Versteeg matched his career high with his 22nd goal of the season.

Jose Theodore stopped 26-of-27 shots to post his first win since December 27. It was his first game since Jan. 20 because of a knee injury.

The Panthers own a four-point edge over the Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division despite playing on Sunday without high-scoring defenseman Jason Garrison, who suffered a lower-body injury the previous day versus the Devils.

"It was a good weekend for us. It's satisfying. We went out played hard and were rewarded for it," said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen.

Dineen's club is looking to win four in a row for the first time since a club- record seven-game run from March 2-16, 2008. The Panthers can also win four straight in regulation for the first time since Feb. 10-19, 2001.

Florida figures to have a good chance at extending its win streak if Versteeg can score. The Panthers are 14-1-1 when he lights the lamp this season, though that one regulation loss came in heartbreaking fashion at Ottawa on Oct. 27.

Versteeg scored to tie the game with 48 seconds left in regulation, but the Senators went back ahead and secured a 4-3 win when Nick Foligno scored with just four ticks left in the third. Florida then suffered a 4-3 overtime loss in Ottawa two months later and is 0-7-1 in the past eight meetings.

The Panthers haven't beaten the Senators since Jan. 9, 2010 in Ottawa and are 5-16-1 against them since the start of the 2006-07 season. The Sens have won their last four trips to Florida and have gotten a pair of goals and three assists from Daniel Alfredsson in the two encounters this year.

Jason Spezza was the offensive star for Ottawa last night as he netted his fourth career hat trick in a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay. That was more then enough offense for Craig Anderson, who made 28 saves for his second shutout of the season and 18th of his career.

Spezza also assisted on Erik Karlsson's goal for the Senators, who won for just the second time in 10 games (2-6-2) but do have points in three straight. They snapped a four-game slide on the road as well.

Spezza has five goals and five assists during a four-game point streak.

"I think we played a pretty consistent game from start to finish," Senators head coach Paul MacLean said. "I think there were some momentum shifts in the game, but I thought Craig Anderson played real well for us and I thought our team handled the momentum shifts and responded real well."

With 66 points, Ottawa is seventh overall in the East and four points behind Boston for first place in the Northeast Division.