With one win since returning from the Olympic break, the Ottawa Senators are losing their chance at a Northwest Division title. A playoff appearance also could be in jeopardy if their losing streak lasts much longer.
Ottawa looks to avoid matching its worst slide of the season Saturday, when it faces a Dallas Stars club needing victories just to get into the playoff hunt.
The Senators (37-29-5) were one point ahead of Buffalo for the division lead heading into the two-week Olympic break, but now trail the Sabres by five. The current four-game skid - the only longer one they’ve had was an 0-5-0 stretch from Jan. 5-12 - has dropped them into a fifth-place tie with Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference, just eight points from being out of the top eight.
An offense with five goals in the last four games remains one of the biggest concerns for Senators coach Cory Clouston.
“We still need our top six or seven forwards to be more offensive. Our third and fourth lines are the guys that scored two of the three goals,” he said following Thursday’s 6-3 loss at Atlanta. “We had a lot of chances. … but we had the same results. We’re not scoring on the chances.”
The Senators’ top-five goal scorers - Milan Michalek(notes), Mike Fisher(notes), Daniel Alfredsson(notes), Alex Kovalev(notes) and Jason Spezza(notes) - have one goal between them during the losing streak.
They’ll look for better results against Dallas (30-27-13), allowing 4.0 goals per game during its 2-6-1 skid. The slump has dropped the Stars to 12th in the West and they have plenty of ground to make up if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season.
Dallas has dropped three of four on its six-game homestand, including Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Philadelphia.
“Every single line played very well. Kari (Lehtonen) played great, the ‘D’ played good,” center Steve Ott(notes) told the Stars’ official Web site after his third two-goal game of the season. “It’s pretty hard to be super upset when the guys put so much pride and character into it.”
With Marty Turco(notes) going 1-4-1 with a 4.14 goals-against average in six games since the break, Lehtonen could get his third straight start Saturday. Acquired from Atlanta on Feb. 9, Lehtonen had 28 saves Thursday after making 45 in a win over San Jose on Tuesday.
He is 4-5-0 with a 2.96 GAA in nine career starts versus Ottawa.
The Stars are averaging 3.5 goals during their homestand and are facing a Senators club that’s surrendered 15 goals in the last three games.
These teams haven’t met since Ottawa’s 5-4 home win Dec. 20, 2008, and they have not played in Dallas since the Senators’ 4-2 victory Dec. 7, 2007.