Senators resume playoff push against Sabres

( - The Ottawa Senators hope to continue their improbable run to a postseason spot when they aim for a seventh victory in eight games in Friday's home clash with the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

The Senators seemed to be headed nowhere as recently as early February, but the club has inserted itself into the Eastern Conference playoff conversation by losing just once in regulation over the last 11 games (8-1-2).

As a result of the surge, Ottawa is just five points behind Boston for the last playoff spot in the East and has played one less game than the Bruins.

Ottawa lost a shootout decision Tuesday in Minnesota, but rebounded the following night with a 3-1 triumph at Winnipeg. Wednesday's victory over the Jets gave the Sens a 4-0-1 record on their five-game road trip and a 6-0-1 mark over their last seven tilts overall.

The Senators will aim for a third straight victory as the host tonight when they begin a three-game stay at Canadian Tire Centre. Ottawa is 14-10-5 on home ice this season.

Rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond deserves a great deal of the credit for Ottawa's resurgence. After making his NHL debut with one relief appearance in 2013-14, the 27-year-old is 6-0-1 this season over the first seven decisions of his career.

Although veteran Craig Anderson, who hasn't played since Jan. 21 due to a hand injury, was originally slated to start Wednesday's game, Hammond got the call instead and turned aside 35 shots for the victory. Anderson could get the start tonight, unless head coach Dave Cameron wants to continue riding the hot hand.

"It's just hard work from everyone on the team, and obviously we have that special feeling now, and I feel like it's carrying over where it doesn't matter the team we're playing, we feel like we hang in there and play and be successful," said Hammond.

Kyle Turris had a goal and an assist in the victory over the Jets. Bobby Ryan and Erik Condra also scored for Ottawa.

The Sabres, who are last in the NHL with only 43 points, enter tonight having dropped two straight and eight of their last 11 games. They last played on Tuesday in Tampa, losing 3-0 to the Lightning to fall to 0-2 at the start of a five-game road trip.

"They're one of the best teams in the league," said Buffalo head coach Ted Nolan of the loss. "Overall I liked the effort."

Anders Lindback stopped 32-of-35 shots in his first appearance for Buffalo since being acquired last month from Dallas.

Chad Johnson, who was picked up from the New York Islanders in a trade on Monday, is expected to make his Sabres debut tonight. He was the backup goaltender to Jaroslav Halak in New York and is 8-8-1 with a 3.08 goals against average this season.

Buffalo is just 7-22-2 as the road club this season and has lost five straight in Ottawa. The Sens have claimed four of the last five meetings in this series and have gained a point in seven straight (5-0-2) against the Sabres.