The sliding Ottawa Senators will try to halt their worst losing streak of the season when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning for Tuesday's battle at the Forum.
The Senators have lost four straight in regulation, tying an 0-2-2 stretch from Feb. 28-March 6 as the club's longest win drought this season. The skid comes on the heels of a three-game winning streak and has dropped Ottawa into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Sens are two points ahead of the Rangers and Islanders, who are occupying the East's final two playoff spots.
Although Ottawa suffered a fourth straight loss in Sunday's game at Florida, the Sens at least had to be happy to have Craig Anderson back in net. Anderson, sidelined since Feb. 21 with an ankle injury, faced just 17 shots from the Panthers and allowed two goals in defeat. The Sens' No. 1 goaltender was one of the NHL's leading Vezina Trophy candidates before getting injured and he could help Ottawa get back on track down the stretch.
The Senators, who received their lone goal on Sunday from Cory Conacher, are winless three games into a seven-game road trip. Ottawa is just 6-10-3 on the road this season and will visit Philadelphia, New Jersey and Boston before completing the important swing.
"When you're down to 10 games left in your season, I think that's more of a motivator than anything else," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said after Sunday's loss.
Conacher is returning to Tampa Bay a week after the rookie was traded to the Senators in the deal that sent goaltender Ben Bishop to the Lightning. The 5- foot-8 Conacher is currently second among all NHL rookies this season with 25 points on 10 goals and 15 assists.
"I've built a lot of good relationships in the locker room over there in Tampa," he said. "I'm usually that gritty player who likes to chirp and get in guys' heads. It might be a little different with those guys but I'm going to play my same game and hopefully come out on top."
The Sens, who have battled injuries to key players all season long, did see star defenseman Erik Karlsson skate on Monday for the first time since sustaining a cut to his left Achilles on Feb. 13. Originally thought to be lost for the year, there now seems to be a chance last season's Norris Trophy winner could return in time to help Ottawa's stretch run.
Tampa Bay is running out of time and games to prove itself as a playoff club. The Bolts are tied for 13th in the East and eight out of a playoff spot with just 10 games left on their schedule.
The Lightning lost for the third time in four games on Sunday, dropping a 4-2 road decision against Washington, which received the game-winner from Joel Ward late in the second period.
Vincent Lecavalier tallied a goal and an assist in the loss, while Alex Killorn also lit the lamp for the Lightning. Bishop allowed three goals on 37 shots in the setback and fell to 1-2-0 since being traded from Ottawa.
"The problem is we're just running out of time," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper admitted of his team's postseason chances. "I guess ultimately, you see what these guys have character wise because they have every right to throw in the towel."
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman missed his second straight game on Sunday and is questionable for Tuesday's tilt with a lower body injury.
The Bolts are opening a brief two-game homestand tonight and are 10-7-2 as the host this season.
Ottawa and the Lightning have split two meetings this season, with each team winning on home ice. The Sens have claimed five of six in this series overall and have three wins in their last five trips to Tampa.