The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to add yet another victory to an impressive run that has lasted more than a month, as they visit the Ottawa Senators for tonight's Eastern Conference clash at Scotiabank Place.
No team has been hotter than the Penguins over the last month, as Pittsburgh has compiled a 13-0-1 record in its last 14 games, a stretch that began with a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers on Feb. 21.
The hot streak has helped put the Penguins in position to win the Atlantic Division, where they are trailing the Rangers by one point for first place in both the division and Eastern Conference standings. New York, which has played one more game (74) than the Pens, is also in action tonight in Toronto.
After having an 11-game winning streak halted in Philadelphia on Sunday, the Penguins scored a total of 13 goals in consecutive home victories over Winnipeg and Nashville. The most recent triumph came in Thursday's 5-1 pasting of the Predators and that victory was enough to clinch Pittsburgh a sixth straight postseason berth.
Evgeni Malkin scored two goals in Thursday's victory, giving him seven goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak. With 95 points, Malkin holds a 10-point lead over Philadelphia's Claude Giroux for the NHL scoring lead. Also, his 45 goals are second this season only to the 50 markers scored by Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.
Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz also scored on Thursday for the Penguins, who are four points ahead of Philadelphia for the fourth seed in the East.
James Neal had four assists one game after picking up his second career hat trick in an 8-4 rout of Winnipeg on Tuesday. Sidney Crosby was held without a point for just the second time in five games since returning from head and neck injuries that kept him sidelined for over three months.
The only bad news to came out of Thursday's win for the Penguins was that defenseman Matt Niskanen suffered an upper-body injury in the game. Niskanen, who has four goals and 17 assists in 72 games this season, did not travel with the team to Ottawa.
Beginning with tonight's test, the Pens are playing three of their next five on the road. Pittsburgh is 20-13-4 as the guest this season.
The Senators, meanwhile, will try to end a three-game slide tonight and bounce back from Friday's lopsided loss in Montreal. Erik Cole netted a natural hat trick in the first period and the Canadiens coasted to a 5-1 win over a struggling Ottawa club that is just 1-3-2 over its last six games.
Ottawa has lost all three of its games during its current losing streak in regulation and the seventh-seeded Sens are just two points in front of Washington and Buffalo in the East standings. The Sabres are in action on Saturday, while the Capitals are idle.
The Senators are also three points behind Boston for first place in the Northeast Division. The Bruins, who hold two games in hand over Ottawa, are playing tonight in Los Angeles.
Jason Spezza scored the only goal on Friday for the Senators. Spezza returned after missing one tilt with flu-like symptoms to play in his 600th career NHL game.
Craig Anderson gave up three goals on 23 shots and Ben Bishop surrendered two tallies on just nine shots in defeat. Anderson was playing for the first time after missing 12 games due to a laceration on his right hand. It's uncertain if Anderson, who was pulled after 45 minutes on Friday, will get the start on consecutive nights,
Ottawa, which is 19-15-4 as the host this year, is home for just one game before embarking on a three-game road trip.
This evening's test marks the final scheduled meeting between the Sens and Pens this season. Ottawa has won two straight after losing the season series opener in Pittsburgh on Nov. 25. The Senators have taken three of their last four home games against the Pens.