While the Ottawa Senators are coming closer to falling out of playoff position, the New York Islanders are making a push to get into it.
Ottawa looks to avoid matching its longest losing streak of the season Friday night as it tries to prevent the visiting Islanders from continuing their recent surge.
The Senators have lost four straight - all in regulation - after going 13-2-2 over the previous 17 games to climb within two points of the Eastern Conference lead. Their worst slide since dropping five in a row Nov. 1-11 has dropped them to sixth in the East, with ninth-place Washington only four points behind.
The conference's other seven teams in playoff position, as well as the Capitals, have at least two games in hand on the Senators (27-20-6).
"We're in the thick of things and we had a pretty successful month, when you look at it as a whole," Jason Spezza told the team's official website. "It was a pretty daunting month and we could have put ourselves in a real tough position, but we've got ourselves in a position where we're in the mix. Now we have some work to do the rest of the way."
Spezza leads Ottawa with 50 points but has none during the four-game skid. Milan Michalek has no goals in eight straight but still tops the team with 23.
The Senators hope a five-game homestand will help them regroup after playing nine of their previous 10 on the road. They've won seven of nine at Scotiabank Place.
"It's going to be nice to be home for awhile and sleep in our own beds," defenseman Erik Karlsson said after scoring in Tuesday's 4-3 loss at Boston. "We've been on the road for awhile now, so it's going to be a nice change. We have to break that skid as fast as possible."
They'll also look to break a two-game slide against the Islanders, though both of those games came last season. These teams play four times in the next two months.
New York is 4-1-1 in its last six after a 5-2 win over Carolina on Wednesday as John Tavares continued his torrid stretch with two goals and two assists.
Tavares has at least one point in 14 of his last 15 games, with 11 goals and 15 assists in that span.
New York (20-22-7), though, still faces a double-digit deficit in its chase of a postseason berth.
"It's a big two points for us for where we are in the standings," Tavares said.
The Islanders' 120 goals are last in the conference, but they converted 2 of 4 power-play opportunities after having none in the previous two games - losses to Toronto on Jan. 23 and 24. They scored their most goals since beating Detroit 5-1 on Jan. 10.
"I think we haven't had a power play in the last two games so it's nice to get some," said Matt Moulson, who scored his team-leading 23rd goal on the man advantage. "We capitalized on them and that was the difference in the game."
Ottawa also went without a power play Tuesday, the first time that's happened since Dec. 21, 2009.
The Islanders had not given up a power-play goal in 10 consecutive road games before allowing one Wednesday.