Senators-Maple Leafs Preview

Andrew Hammond’s spectacular run has put the Ottawa Senators into playoff position.

Which goaltender potentially carries them over the threshold into the postseason is a mystery heading into Saturday night’s game against their provincial archrivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hammond has emerged as an unlikely star over the past six weeks, going 14-0-1 in his first 15 starts to practically will Ottawa (37-25-11) into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After shaking off a leg injury in Monday’s 5-2 win over San Jose, the rookie finally came undone as he was chased in the second period of Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers after allowing five goals on 22 shots.

The defeat left Ottawa tied in points with Boston – which lost 3-2 in overtime to Anaheim – but still in the final wild-card spot by virtue of having played one fewer game than the Bruins.

”You’ve got to help out your goaltender, especially with Hammer since he’s stood on his head for us for so many games in a row,” defenseman Marc Methot said. ”We certainly didn’t do him any favors and it showed and we got pumped on the scoreboard.”

Hammond wouldn’t have even been an option had Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner not suffered injuries. Anderson – who hasn’t played since Ottawa’s 3-1 loss to Boston on March 10 due to an injury to his right hand – was named starter after Saturday’s morning skate according to the team’s official Twitter account, giving Hammond a chance to recover.

Lehner is still sidelined recovering from post-concussion effects, so it’s possible rookie Chris Driedger, who stopped 10 shots in his NHL debut relieving Hammond on Thursday, will serve as backup.

With the goaltender issue settled for this game, the Senators would also like to improve their power play. They went 0 for 6 on Thursday and are 7 for 56 (12.5 percent) during their 15-2-1 surge.

The man-advantage efforts could get a boost from Clarke MacArthur, who has been cleared to play after being sidelined since Feb. 16 due to a concussion. Despite missing Ottawa’s entire 18-game surge, the ex-Maple Leaf is tied for second on the team with five power-play goals.

The Senators have won the last two games in the Battle of Ontario, including a 5-3 victory last Saturday. Kyle Turris snapped a 3-all tie with a power-play goal late in the second period and added an empty-netter.

Ottawa forward Mike Hoffman, who leads all rookies with 26 goals, has scored in all three matchups this season.

Having two games remaining against woeful Toronto (27-42-6) could prove to be a decisive factor in the Senators’ push for the postseason, as the Leafs are trying to avoid a season-worst eighth consecutive loss in regulation. They are 6-28-3 in 2015 and have been outscored 29-11 in non-shootout goals during their skid.

Toronto lost 4-1 at home to Florida on Thursday, giving up three goals in a 10:11 span of the second period.

”That whole second period, the neutral zone was poor, we were porous,” interim coach Peter Horachek said. ”People were doing something that I don’t know what they were doing."

The miserable season has taken its toll, and embattled center Phil Kessel and David Booth wrestled each other before being separated by teammates at practice Friday.

"Guys have been frustrated all year," Booth said. "I think it was just a drill that promoted competition. It was actually good to see that, so hopefully we can take some of that competitive nature into our game (Saturday)."