Panthers-Senators Preview

Looking to move up in the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa Senators hope to continue their mastery over the Florida Panthers.

Ottawa goes for its eighth straight win over Southeast Division-leading Florida on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place.

With 36 points, the Senators (16-14-4) are tied with Toronto for seventh in the East. Washington, Buffalo and Winnipeg are each one point back.

Facing the Panthers, though, may help spur Ottawa. Since being blanked on Jan. 9, 2010, the Senators have outscored Florida 28-13 during the seven-game winning streak. Ottawa has killed off 23 of 25 short-handed situations over that span.

The Senators' offense has surged lately, scoring 10 goals to power the club to back-to-back wins. In Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Sabres, Erik Condra scored twice in the third period with his first goal coming off an assist from Kyle Turris, who made his Senators debut.

Acquired from Phoenix on Saturday, Turris also won seven of nine faceoffs. Turris, picked third overall in the 2007 entry draft, fell out of favor with the Coyotes following a long and bitter holdout heading into this season.

"I thought Kyle was a real good player for us," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "He did a good job in the faceoff circle. I thought as the game wore on his game progressed."

While MacLean's offense is clicking, he may lean toward going with Craig Anderson in goal. Anderson, who played for Florida from 2006-09, has surrendered only six goals while winning four straight over the Panthers.

Before the Christmas break, Florida (18-10-6) opens a brief but challenging road trip. After meeting the Senators, the Panthers face off against Northeast-leading Boston on Friday.

The Panthers lost 2-1 to Phoenix on Tuesday to wrap up a 2-1-1 homestand. Brian Campbell scored late in the second period, but Stephen Weiss missed on a penalty shot in the final minute of regulation.

"They played hard and we weren't able to find a way to pull it out in the end," coach Kevin Dineen said.

In spite of the loss, the Panthers still have a seven-point advantage over the Capitals - the second-largest of any division leader. Dineen, a first-year NHL coach after a successful career in the AHL, is trying to guide Florida to its first playoff berth since 2000.

Kris Versteeg, who assisted on Campbell's goal, is the Panthers' top scorer on the road with eight goals and 13 assists in 17 games. He had a goal and an assist in Florida's only meeting with the Senators this season, a 4-3 road loss Oct. 27.

Rookie Jacob Markstrom made 34 save in that matchup, but veteran Jose Theodore will likely be between the pipes for this game.

Theodore is 4-7-1 with a tie and 3.20 goals-against average in his career versus the Senators in Ottawa. Should he get the nod Thursday, it would be Theodore's first game in Canada's capital since Jan. 20, 2009, with Washington.

This contest will feature the league's top two scoring defensemen. Ottawa's Erik Karlsson has five points in his last two games to give him 31, and Campbell has 26 points.