As good as the Ottawa Senators have been lately, they haven’t had many impressive victories.
They have two chances to get one this weekend with a home-and-home series against the Philadelphia Flyers, starting Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
It’s been quite a good week for the Senators (21-15-5), who learned Thursday they had four players voted to start the All-Star game in Ottawa. Plus, their win streak has reached four games.
However, all of those victories came against teams below them in the standings, and they needed to rally to force overtime in the first three. They finally avoided going past regulation Thursday, defeating Tampa Bay 4-1.
“Overall, we’ve got to be happy,” said Daniel Alfredsson, one of the All-Star starters. “We’re doing it a lot of different ways, which is also encouraging.”
Though Ottawa is 7-1-1 in its last nine, only three of its past 13 wins were against teams currently in playoff position.
The Senators have played just six road games since the start of December, losing four and winning two over a Buffalo team which is 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Only two East teams have more points than Philadelphia (23-11-4), so getting one or two wins this weekend - the teams meet Sunday in Ottawa - could be a big confidence boost for the Senators. The Flyers dominated the only matchup this season, 7-2 in Ottawa on Oct. 18, and the Senators lost their two visits to Philadelphia last season by a combined 11-3.
The Flyers’ only home losses over the past six weeks came against division leaders - to Boston and then the Rangers in the Winter Classic.
They’re coming off a home win over another first-place team, beating Chicago 5-4 on Thursday.
James van Riemsdyk scored the winner with 32.8 seconds left and had two goals in his first game since being moved from the fourth line to the first one to replace Jaromir Jagr, out at least a few more games with a calf injury. Van Riemsdyk had one goal and two assists in his previous 13 contests.
“It was his best game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think the fact that he was skating to be physical, he was banging bodies. I think this is a game he can use to get excited about, go into the next game and build off it.”
It probably helped to be playing alongside Claude Giroux, who had two assists Thursday to give him 21 points in his last 13 games. He’s tied with Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin for the league lead with 48 points.
Ottawa doesn’t have anyone among the top 10. Jason Spezza, another All-Star starter, is the closest with 41 points after scoring goals in back-to-back games.
No Senators player has been hotter than Alfredsson, who had a goal and two assists Thursday to give him 15 points in the past 10 games. He also has two overtime goals and a shootout goal during Ottawa’s win streak.
Craig Anderson has won all four of those games with a 1.29 goals-against average.
Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov snapped a personal four-game losing streak Thursday but gave up at least four goals for the fourth time in five games. Bryzgalov was benched for the Winter Classic in favor of Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 5-2-0 with a 1.75 GAA in his last nine games.
While Bobrovsky is 3-1-0 with a 2.26 GAA against the Senators, Bryzgalov’s career 3.82 GAA against them is his second-worst versus any opponent.
Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen could sit out with an upper-body injury.