A pair of potential playoff teams from opposite conferences will meet tonight in Ottawa, as the Senators welcome the Chicago Blackhawks for a battle at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators are currently three points behind Boston for first place in the Northeast Division and are also seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind Philadelphia and one in front of New Jersey. The Blackhawks are the sixth seed out West and are two points in front of San Jose.
Ottawa has played the better hockey of the two teams lately, as the Sens closed February with a 7-1-1 mark. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have won five of their last eight contests, but are also just 5-11-1 over their last 17 trips to the ice.
The Senators have won two in a row and are coming off Tuesday's 1-0 win over the defending Stanley Cup champions. Robin Lehner made 32 saves for his first career shutout as Ottawa posted a 1-0 victory over the Bruins in Boston.
The victory moved Ottawa within a point of Boston for first place in the Northeast Division, but the Bruins extended that lead with a win over New Jersey on Thursday.
The 20-year-old Lehner made 17 saves in the third period to wrap up his first shutout in 11 NHL games. The youngster was called up after regular starter Craig Anderson lacerated the pinky finger on his right hand and Lehner figures to get a third straight start tonight. Anderson is still sidelined, leaving Ottawa with a goaltending tandem of Lehner and Ben Bishop.
"I thought he played with composure," Senators coach Paul MacLean said of Lehner. "He gave us a lot of confidence from the way that he played."
Erik Karlsson scored the game's only goal on a slap shot in the first period. Jason Spezza assisted on the power-play goal to extend his point streak to 10 games. Spezza has posted eight goals and 13 helpers during the run and is tied with Carolina's Eric Staal for the longest current point streak in the NHL.
The Blackhawks were able to end a three-game slide with Wednesday's home win over Toronto. However, Chicago will now head out for three games on the road, where the club is just 12-17-3 this season compared to an excellent 22-7-4 mark at home
Marian Hossa scored twice to lead the Blackhawks to a 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs. Chicago trailed the contest by a 3-2 score after one period, but the Blackhawks scored three straight goals to take control of the game.
Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, while Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger each added a goal for the Blackhawks.
"We've had a pretty tough schedule the past several games here," said Kane. "But we got to get some wins and finish the season strong, the playoffs is the goal here."
Corey Crawford started the game in net, but was pulled after the first period as he allowed three goals on 10 shots. Ray Emery finished the contest for Chicago and got the win, allowing just one goal on 23 shots.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who leads the team with 29 goals, will miss a sixth straight game tonight with an upper-body injury that is believed to be a concussion. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has sat out the last four games with an upper-body injury and will also be held out of tonight's tilt.
Hjalmarsson traveled to Ottawa with the team for the start of the road trip. Toews remained in Chicago but was not ruled out for the whole trek, which concludes Tuesday in St. Louis.
Tonight's tilt marks the first and only scheduled encounter between the Sens and Blackhawks this season. Chicago has taken four of five overall in the series, but the Sens have won two of the last three meetings in Canada's capital city.
Ottawa is 17-12-3 as the host this season.