The Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators have managed to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race behind impressive 11-game stretches.
Both hope to see their success carry over into Saturday’s matinée showdown at PNC Arena, where the Senators have struggled mightily over the years.
One day after pulling out a 3-2 win at Philadelphia, Carolina (22-19-9) swept a two-game road trip with Thursday’s 5-3 victory at Buffalo. Alexander Semin stayed hot with two more goals, Andrej Sekera notched a season-high three points and Jeff Skinner snapped a season high-tying five-game goalless drought.
The Hurricanes erased three one-goal deficits in improving to 8-3-0 since Dec. 31. They are one of several clubs in the mix for a postseason berth with 53 points, one behind the Senators (22-19-10).
"We’ve played in a lot of one-goal games so far and I think learning the good and the bad over the course of the year is starting to take its course now where we’re starting to come up with some points in these tight games," coach Kirk Muller told the NHL’s official website.
Semin has come up especially big of late, posting half of his 12 goals over the last four games. He has 14 points in as many contests.
"He’s really picked it up," Muller said. "He is shooting the puck more, he’s hitting the net, he’s on a roll right now, it helps… He’s becoming our money guy right now with Skinner scoring some big goals over the last two weeks."
The Hurricanes are 8-2-1 in their last 11 against Ottawa after taking this season’s first matchup 4-1 on Nov. 24. The Senators have had an especially rough go in Carolina, getting outscored 37-13 while going 1-9-1.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, who tallied a goal and two assists in November’s meeting, has 21 points over the last 16.
The Senators have also played well of late, going 7-1-3 over the last four weeks. After opening a five-game trek with Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Washington, Ottawa suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Erik Karlsson and Clarke MacArthur each had a goal and an assist, and Chris Neil scored the tying goal – the 100th of his career – with 2:18 left in regulation.
"The next hundred might be harder to get to, but it was a big moment for him," captain Jason Spezza said. "It was a big goal for us. To get that point and to get out of here with a point keeps us moving in the right direction in the standings."
The Senators, who went 2 for 3 on the man advantage, came back from three one-goal deficits in improving to 4-0-2 over their last six on the road. Ottawa has compiled an NHL-leading power-play percentage of 28.2 on the road compared to 11.8 at home, where it ranks 29th.
"I’m not sure if it’s a comfort level or what it is, but we’ve got to keep working on it," coach Paul MacLean said. "We believe that if we continue to work at it, it’s going to get good everywhere."
Craig Anderson, who stopped 35 shots against the Lightning, is 5-0-2 with a 2.36 goals-against average in his last seven road starts. He is 1-2-2 despite a 1.99 mark during a five-game stretch against the Hurricanes.
Carolina’s Anton Khudobin has started every game this month, going 7-3-0 with a 2.16 GAA. He’s earned three victories in as many tries while compiling a 1.33 GAA versus Ottawa.
Skinner, leading the Hurricanes with 22 goals, has just one and three assists in 11 career matchups in this series.