The Ottawa Senators are still searching for consistency, and that’s already been an issue on this swing through western Canada.
The Senators look to avoid a fourth loss in five games Wednesday night when they face the Calgary Flames, who could make changes ahead of the trade deadline.
Ottawa (27-24-11) has put together only two winning streaks this season of three games or more, and its longest was a four-game run Dec. 28-Jan. 4. The Senators are 8-6-4 since, giving up an average of 3.39 goals.
Despite that inconsistent stretch, Ottawa is just four points behind Columbus for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, but Detroit, Washington and New Jersey are in the way.
With 20 games left in the regular season, it’s unclear if that’s enough motivation for the Senators to try to find some help before Wednesday’s trade deadline.
They didn’t do themselves any favors Tuesday, falling 3-2 to Edmonton, the team with the fewest points in the West. That came two days after they beat Vancouver 4-2 in the outdoor Heritage Classic to open this four-game trip.
"We started well and then we started trading chances with them and we really couldn’t keep up," defenseman Erik Karlsson said Tuesday. "I think we could have played a little bit smarter."
Karlsson has scored in each of the past two games, as he bids for his second Norris Trophy in three seasons. He leads all defensemen with 17 goals and 57 points, tallying four times while adding two assists over the past six games.
Karlsson has scored three goals and set up two others in four road games, but he has just one point in three visits to Calgary (23-31-7). His third-period goal forced overtime before he set up the game-winner in a 4-3 home victory in the most recent matchup Dec. 30, 2011.
Unlike the Senators, the Flames are all but certain to miss the playoffs, ranking only ahead of the Oilers in the conference.
That’s fueled speculation that they could look dramatically different when they take the ice, with Mike Cammalleri as the likeliest candidate to be traded.
Cammalleri has 14 goals and eight assists, but has missed 17 games to injuries, including nine with a concussion.
While Cammalleri seems likely to move, general manager Brian Burke refuted the idea that some players are untouchable.
"I think it’s a really overused term," Burke said. "I mean, Wayne Gretzky got traded, so how can you have untouchables? The closest we have are Sean Monahan and (Mark Giordano). Those would be the closest we have to untouchables. It’s that simple for me.
"But if someone offers me 10 first-round picks for either of those players, I think those are deals that we have to take. When you’re in the place where we are in the standings, your list of untouchables should be either non-existent or tiny."
Cammalleri and Giordano accounted for the Flames’ offense in a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Monday, their third in four games.
Giordano’s 10 goals are one shy of his career-high set in 2009-10, while Monahan’s team-leading 18 rank second in the league among rookies.
Calgary had won a season-high five straight at home before a 2-0 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday in its first game back from the Olympic break.
The Senators acquired winger Ales Hemsky from Edmonton on Wednesday for a third-round draft pick this year and a fifth-rounder in 2015. The 30-year-old Hemsky has nine goals and 17 assists in 55 games this season.