The Ottawa Senators could get Craig Anderson back on Sunday and they hope the goaltender's return can help them avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season.
Anderson hasn't played since Feb. 21, but he suited up to serve as the backup in Ottawa's last contest and could be ready to go as the starter for Sunday's road test against the Florida Panthers.
The Senators have lost three straight in regulation and another loss on Sunday would match the club's 0-2-2 stretch from Feb.28-March 6 as Ottawa's longest skid of the season.
Despite the recent cold streak, the Sens are still sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Ottawa is two points behind Toronto for the fifth seed and two in front of the Rangers and Islanders, who currently occupy the last two postseason berths.
Robin Lehner has suffered the last two losses in net for Ottawa, but Anderson could provide relief on Sunday. The 31-year-old Anderson was the league's leading Vezina Trophy candidate when he went down to injury in February and is 8-4-2 with a 1.49 goals against average and .952 save percentage this season.
Lehner allowed four goals on 30 shots in a 4-2 loss at Buffalo on Friday. Brian Flynn and Jochen Hecht scored 12 seconds apart late in the third period to lift the Sabres to the victory.
Marc Methot and Eric Gryba scored for the Senators, who are 0-2 at the start of a seven-game road trip and 6-9-3 as the visiting team this season.
"I personally believe that it's even more important now to stay upbeat, stay confident in what we're doing. I don't think we're that far off at all because it's so close as it is in the League," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We're not the only team that's gone through this and we're not going to be the last one either. We'll find a way to weather through this."
Ottawa's current road trip is its longest of the season and the Sens will face Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Boston before it's over.
The Sens beat Florida twice during the first month of the season, notching a 4-0 home win on Jan. 21 before winning three days later in Sunrise by a 3-1 score.
All told, Ottawa has won 11 of the last 12 encounters in this series and Florida has lost six of the past seven meetings on its home ice.
Florida is 12 points out of a playoff spot with 10 games to go, meaning the Eastern Conference's bottom seed has little chance of returning to the postseason . The Panthers ended a 10-season playoff drought last spring before being ousted in seven games by the New Jersey Devils.
On Saturday, the Panthers fought back hard against the visiting Washington Capitals but couldn't overcome a dynamic effort from Alex Ovechkin, who registered a hat trick and added an assist in the Capitals' 4-3 victory.
Jacob Markstrom had 27 saves in a losing effort for the Panthers, who scored all three of their goals in the third period. Tomas Kopecky had a pair of markers and Peter Mueller lit the lamp once in the setback.
"It doesn't matter if were are down four, six or 10, or if we are up four. We should be playing the same way at all times," Kopecky said.
Florida fell to 6-9-5 as the home team this season. After Sunday's game at the BB&T Center, the Panthers will play five of their next six games on the road.