Stars host Sens in clash between sliding clubs

( - Hoping to salvage their chance at a playoff spot, the Ottawa Senators will try to avoid a sixth loss in a row on Saturday afternoon as they visit the Dallas Stars.

The Senators have fallen nine points back of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 2-7-2 skid. They have dropped three straight in regulation following back-to-back overtime defeats.

Though Ottawa kept battling back, it eventually lost a 5-4 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning in regulation on Thursday. The Lightning scored twice in the third period to go up by two before Milan Michalek lit the lamp for the Sens to make it a one-goal game with 2:52 to play.

Ottawa was then on the power play for the game's final 56 seconds, but failed to light the lamp despite pulling goaltender Robin Lehner for a 6-on-4 advantage.

Clarke MacArthur (shorthanded) and Erik Karlsson (power play) scored in the first period and Ales Hemsky added a second-period tally in defeat. Karlsson and Michalek both added assists and Jason Spezza notched a helper on two goals.

Lehner, meanwhile, allowed five goals on 28 shots in his fourth start since Craig Anderson suffered a shoulder injury. He has yielded 18 goals in that span, but was taken off the hook by coach Paul MacLean for Thursday's outing.

"We turned over some pucks and put him in a tough spot," Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean said when asked for his thoughts about Lehner. "You give them 28 shots, you give them turnovers, 13 giveaways, you put the goalie in a tough position. It's too easy to say it's the goalie. It's way too easy. I think the whole group is in charge of all of that and we gave them too many pucks and gave them too many opportunities."

Regardless, Lehner is expected to go again today and it would be his first start against the Stars. However, he did face them once in relief back on Nov. 3 in the first of two meetings between these clubs this season.

Anderson started and made 33 saves, but exited the game on a stretcher following a collision with Dallas' Valeri Nichushkin early in overtime. Lehner made two saves in relief, but took the 4-3 loss for giving up the only goal of the shootout to Jamie Benn.

Karlsson, Spezza and Bobby Ryan all had a goal and an assist in the loss, Ottawa's fourth in a row to the Stars.

Kari Lehtonen made 33 saves and is likely to get the start tonight for Dallas, which has won four of its past five at home in this series. Lehtonen is 7-5-0 with a 2.89 goals against average lifetime in this matchup.

Lehtonen recently returned from a concussion, so he was given the night off in Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Tim Thomas got the call instead and yielded all four goals on 29 shots.

The costly setback was Dallas' fourth straight, with the last three coming in regulation, and has the club four points back of the Phoenix Coyotes for the West's second wild card with a game in hand.

"Obviously it's tough. I thought the team played hard," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We missed some point blank opportunities and there is probably a couple our goaltender would like back. If we play like that night after night, we will win."

Benn recorded both goals and Tyler Seguin added two assists for the Stars. Seguin has six goals and eight assists over a seven-game point streak.

After getting outscored 16-5 on a winless three-game road trip, the Stars will play two straight at home and could have forward Shawn Horcoff back in action today. He has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury.