Last week, the New York Islanders dealt a damaging blow to the Ottawa Senators’ playoff hopes.
On Tuesday night, they can finish the Senators off as the teams meet for the second time in six days.
New York (31-36-11) was recently mathematically eliminated from the postseason chase but has caused a significant amount of trouble for the Senators in the past week. After beating Ottawa 2-1 on the road Wednesday, the Islanders failed to help the Senators on the other end of the spectrum with a 4-0 defeat at Columbus – which holds the second and final wild-card spot – Sunday.
”To be honest with you, this is the first game in a while I feel we weren’t there collectively as a group,” defenseman Travis Hamonic said after the Islanders lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (5-1-2). ”We’ve been playing some really good hockey, especially the young players.”
New York is 14-5-2 on the road after losing 13 of its first 17.
Ottawa (33-31-14) split its two games following the loss to the Islanders and is coming off a 3-2 road victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday, but the situation is dire. The Senators are seven points behind the Blue Jackets with four games to play, meaning they must win out and have Columbus lose its last four – and that doesn’t factor needing New Jersey, Toronto and Washington to also falter down the stretch.
”We wanted to have a response just for the morale of the group,” captain Jason Spezza said, all but conceding the reality of the situation. ”We know it’s been a disappointing year, we know that we haven’t reached expectations, but we still have these games left to play so we want to win them.”
Craig Anderson will get a chance for redemption as he starts for Ottawa. He had 25 saves in Wednesday’s defeat, snapping a personal three-game winning streak over the Islanders, and seems to be taking this game at face value.
"I think when we dropped the two in the row things seemed to go out the window," he told the team’s official website after practice Monday, referring to Ottawa’s 7-4 home loss to Montreal on Friday in which the Senators squandered an early 3-0 lead. "We’re just going forward, playing hard, enjoying ourselves and making sure we show up at the rink, give it our best, give it everything we have out there and play for each other."
Erik Karlsson, who already set Ottawa’s single-season franchise record for goals by a defenseman with 20 and has a team-leading 71 points, has only three points in his last seven games. He was held off the scoresheet in last week’s loss and has three goals and six assists in 13 lifetime games versus New York.
The Islanders were 3 for 6 on the penalty kill in Sunday’s loss and rank 29th on the road in such situations with a 75.9 percent success rate. The Senators – whose lone goal Wednesday came on the man advantage – have a league-low 11.6 percent conversion rate on the power play at home.