Bruins-Senators Preview

The Associated Press

The Ottawa Senators' scoring binge has them closing on the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins.

The Senators have a chance to make that race even tighter if they overcome an unusual injury to goaltender Craig Anderson and end a lengthy skid to the inconsistent Bruins on Saturday night.

After totaling nine goals during an 0-6-1 skid, Ottawa has rebounded with 28 goals in a 5-0-1 stretch.

Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson had three points apiece during their team's fourth straight win, 5-2 over visiting Washington on Wednesday. Karlsson also set a team single-season mark for defensemen with his 47th assist, and he's also nearing another franchise record as he's three shy of Norm Maciver's 63 points from the Senators' inaugural 1992-93 campaign.

Karlsson is also on a five-game point streak that's featured five goals and seven assists, and Jason Spezza has seven goals and nine assists during a seven-game run.

"We're getting contributions from everyone offensively and the structure of our team play has been very good and the attention to detail in the defensive zone is getting better," coach Paul MacLean said. "As a result our goals against is getting better, and we're creating way more offense out of the way we play defense."

That consistent production is likely the envy of Bruins fans, who have seen their team mix solid efforts with low-scoring ones in February.

Boston (36-20-3) has scored three or more goals in each of its four victories this month and a combined four in its seven defeats. After winning 4-2 in St. Louis on Wednesday, the Bruins fell 2-1 in a shootout in Buffalo on Friday.

"A point for us is OK," goaltender Tuukka Rask said following his sixth straight loss. "We haven't played consistently over the past couple of weeks. But I think against St. Louis we played a great game, and today we played a good game ... and we have to keep it going."

That point put Boston three ahead of Ottawa in the Northeast, but the Senators have played three more games and they likely won't have Anderson to help close that gap. The goaltender accidentally cut his right hand while preparing a meal Thursday.

Alex Auld, who has started seven games this season, will get the start seeking to win consecutive outings for the first time this season. He might also start Tuesday when Ottawa visits Boston.

"This is where a lot of things are going to be decided here, whether we make it a tight race or whether we really push them down," Boston coach Claude Julien said of the two matchups. "We'll be up to the task."

Auld is 4-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average in six career starts against the Bruins, one of his former teams. While with Montreal, he gave up two goals on eight shots in relief of Carey Price during a 7-0 rout March 24.

"I look at it as an opportunity," Auld told the team's website. "Craig is a huge part of our team, and it's a tough loss. I think we have a capable group, and we're playing good hockey. We've just got to keep that going."

Boston, meanwhile, will likely counter with Tim Thomas, who has started each of his team's three wins against the Senators this season. He's also recorded five of the Bruins' seven consecutive wins in the series.

Boston has won seven in a row in Ottawa, and Thomas is 8-0-0 with a 1.35 GAA in his last eight games there.

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