Ottawa coach Paul MacLean called this meeting with the Florida Panthers a “must win.”
His team doesn’t usually have much trouble winning against them anyway.
The Senators look to continue their dominance of the last-place Panthers in order to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season.
Ottawa (19-12-6) has lost three in a row in regulation for the first time this season after falling 4-2 at Buffalo on Friday, three days after opening a seven-game road trip with a 3-2 defeat to Boston.
The Senators, who went 0-2-2 from Feb. 28-March 6, have seen their playoff position turn tenuous. They’re sixth in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the seventh-place tie between the New York Rangers and Islanders and four in front of Winnipeg in ninth.
MacLean is stressing urgency in order to expand that lead.
“We can’t do anything about the last three, all we can do is something about the next one we play,” MacLean said. “It’s a must-win to make sure that we stop the bleeding type of thing.”
The last of three season meetings with the Panthers (12-20-6) is timely.
Ottawa has scored 47 goals while winning 11 of the last 12 matchups, including both this year. Craig Anderson made 25 saves to lead the Senators to a 3-1 win in the most recent visit to BB&T Center on Jan. 24, three days after he stopped 31 shots in a 4-0 home win.
They’ve won six of the last seven road meetings, and may have Anderson back in net for the first time since he injured his ankle in a 3-2 shootout win over the Rangers on Feb. 21.
He’s 9-0-1 with a 1.59 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last 10 starts against the Panthers, winning his last four games in Florida behind a 1.25 GAA.
“I felt really comfortable with the team. It’s an easy fit to play with those guys,” said Conacher, who has three points in four meetings with the Panthers.
Conacher’s 24 points on the season rank second among rookies, two behind Jonathan Huberdeau of Florida.
Huberdeau has six points in five games, but has yet to manage one in two games versus Ottawa.
The Panthers own the worst record in the East, and resembled that lowly status Saturday when they fell behind by four goals before their third-period rally fell short in a 4-3 loss to Washington. They had won three in a row.
Tomas Kopecky has three goals in two games after netting two versus the Capitals. The right wing has scored 11 of his 15 goals at home, and his next tally at any venue will set a new career high.
Shawn Matthias is also looking to continue his strong stretch. The center has seven points in five games after getting two assists Saturday.