Rangers-Senators Preview

Backup goaltenders have been vital to both Ottawa and the New York Rangers, though it’s Andrew Hammond’s dominance that has turned things around for the Senators.

After avoiding an injury scare, Hammond should have a chance to aim for a pair of records opposite Cam Talbot and the Rangers on Thursday night.

Ottawa (37-24-11) has gone 15-1-1 over its last 17 games to surge into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Boston after trailing by 14.

Hammond has been at the center of the revival, going 14-0-1 with a 1.58 goals-against average while Craig Anderson struggles with a hand injury.

His stretch of getting at least one point in his first 15 career starts is one shy of Patrick Lalime’s NHL record from 1996-97. Hammond has also won nine straight to tie Martin Prusek (2002-03) and Brian Elliott (2009-10) for the longest streak in team history.

"I like playing every game, so it’s something where I feel like I play better when I get into a rhythm and playing more," Hammond told the team’s official website. "Anytime my name gets called, I’ll be ready and happy to play."

Hammond was called upon for a seventh straight game Monday and made 29 saves in a 5-2 win over San Jose. He avoided a serious injury in a third-period collision with the Sharks’ Logan Couture.

"I just got a little banged up but I feel good, so I’ll be good to go," he said.

The Senators hope so since he’s spurred their first seven-game winning streak since a franchise-record 11-game run Jan. 14-Feb. 4, 2010.

The Rangers (46-19-7) are also aware of the value in a strong backup, but Talbot’s time as the No. 1 is about to end with Henrik Lundqvist slated to start one of two games this weekend.

Talbot has gone 15-4-3 with a 2.21 GAA since Lundqvist went down with a neck injury, helping New York become a contender in the crowded race for the Presidents’ Trophy. However, he’s coming off one of his worst efforts of that stretch after making 31 saves in a 4-2 defeat to Los Angeles.

He may be looking over his shoulder Thursday with Lundqvist acting as his backup.

"There’s no doubt that Cam has done extremely well for us," coach Alain Vigneault told the team’s official website. "But if you look at the body of work that Hank has done for this team over the years, there’s no doubt that he’s the No. 1 guy.

"Moving forward he will be the No. 1 guy, but we still have a lot of hockey to be played in a short amount of time, so I will use both goaltenders."

Talbot, though, will get the nod against the Senators for the first time since stopping 29 shots in a 4-1 victory at Canadian Tire Centre on Jan. 18, 2014.

New York won 3-2 on Carl Hagelin’s overtime goal in the most recent meeting Jan. 20.

Rick Nash has nine goals in 14 career meetings with the Senators, collecting five in his last six on the road. The left wing scored twice in an 8-4 win in the most recent visit to Ottawa on March 18, 2014.

He enters this one without a goal in a season-worst seven straight games, and his next tally will give him 40 in a season for the first time since 2008-09 with Columbus.

The Senators are getting strong production out of their star Erik Karlsson, who has 24 points in 21 games after posting three in the last two. The defenseman has 11 points in 15 career regular-season meetings with the Rangers.