It's no surprise that both the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators are on the outside looking in for the playoffs as Thanksgiving approaches. But few expected either rebuilding team to take their current paths through the first quarter of the season.
The Senators will look to maintain their surprising start, and the Rangers will continue searching for consistency on Friday night when Ottawa hosts New York.
Both teams are coming off impressive victories Wednesday night, when the visiting Senators completed a sweep of a back-to-back road set by edging the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, in overtime. Meanwhile, the host Rangers beat the NHL-leading Washington Capitals, 4-1.
The Senators, an almost universal pick to finish with the worst record in the league this season, are within a game of .500 (10-11-1) after following up Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings with their victory over the Canadiens.
"In bits and pieces, we're still learning and we've improved since the start of the year," Senators left winger Brady Tkachuk told reporters after he scored 38 seconds into overtime Wednesday night. "I think we're trending in the right direction."
The Senators have won four of their last five (4-1-0) and are 9-5-0 since opening the season 1-6-1.
"We've gone through spurts where (they) don't stick to it and we shoot ourselves in the foot," Senators goalie Craig Anderson said. "That wasn't the case tonight. I thought we did a great job of learning from our mistakes earlier in the year."
The Rangers, who missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons, appeared to have learned from mistakes as well on Wednesday, but it wasn't the first time this year they've appeared to turn a corner.
New York opened the season 2-0-0 and has subsequently beaten the defending Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning as well as the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, both of whom made the playoffs last season.
But the Rangers have also endured a five-game losing streak and entered Wednesday having been outscored 13-6 in losing two straight to the Lightning and Florida Panthers. So which is the real New York team?
"This is the way we should play -- we know it, it's just hard to be up there all the time," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist told reporters after making 30 saves to earn the victory Wednesday night. "This is a video we can watch and see how we can have success."
Lundqvist, who recorded his 454th career win to tie Curtis Joseph for fifth place on the all-time list, is expected to start in net again Friday for the Rangers. He'll likely be opposed by the Senators' No. 1 goalie, Anderson, who started and earned the win Wednesday night by stopping 35 shots against the Canadiens.
Lundqvist is 17-22-3 in 43 regular-season games against the Senators. Anderson is 13-8-3 in 25 contests against the Rangers.
--Field Level Media