TORONTO — The Ottawa Senators trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by 22 points in the Eastern Conference standings, but that figures to have little influence when the teams meet Saturday night.
The Senators have won five in a row at the Air Canada Centre. Their last loss there came April 5, 2015, when the Maple Leafs won 3-2 in a shootout.
The Senators (19-25-9) defeated the Maple Leafs (32-19-5) 4-3 on Jan. 10 in their first game of the season at the ACC. The teams have split their two games in Ottawa.
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Both teams beat the Nashville Predators (Toronto 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday and Ottawa 4-3 in overtime on Thursday) in their most recent games.
Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman scored the overtime winner Thursday with his 100th career goal.
“It feels good to hit a little milestone like that and it’s a little more special that it’s the overtime winner,” Hoffman said. “It couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
The Senators will be trying to win three in a row for the second time this season and for the first time since October.
“They’ve won two in a row,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Our guys know (about Ottawa’s recent dominance in Toronto); they’ve been in the games, too.”
“We’ve been playing good hockey for a while now,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “I like the way our team has responded.”
The Senators will be without right winger Alex Burrows, who was suspended for 10 games by the NHL for using a knee to deliver blows to the head of the Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils during a game at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday night.
The Senators will have two players return for the game in Toronto — right winger Mark Stone (leg injury), who has missed the past nine games, and center Derick Brassard (undisclosed), who has missed the past two games.
Stone, who was injured in the loss to Toronto in Ottawa on Jan. 20, has nine goals and 17 assists in 18 career games against the Maple Leafs.
Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews has six goals and five assists in seven career games against Ottawa.
“I think we’ve got guys stepping up,” Senators goaltender Craig Anderson said. “When someone goes down with an injury, another guy can fill that role and take advantage of that time. We’ve got guys coming in and competing and we’re playing pretty well as a team right now.”
Anderson will get the start in goal Saturday, opposing Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen, who was the difference Wednesday in making 44 saves (and six in the shootout) for the Maple Leafs in their win over Nashville.
“I guess I feel sorry for the announcers,” Andersen quipped Friday after Toronto’s practice. “They have to figure it out. It’ a good thing we’re not spelled exactly the same. … It’s always fun with the rivalry with Ottawa and the goalies with similar names. We’ve gone back and forth a lot with some good matchups.”
Andersen has played the most minutes in the NHL (2,751) and has a .922 save percentage, tied for sixth, and has a 2.64 goals-against average to rank ninth among goalies who have faced at least 1,000 shots. He leads the league with 1,430 saves and 1,551 shots against.
“But for me (the regular goaltending) stats aren’t useful to look at too much,” Andersen said. “I look at goals against and saves.
“Would I have done something different or is that what I tried to do in that situation? There can be a game where you see 15 shots and let in three, but you wouldn’t have done anything different on the three goals.
“The only difference would be if you had 35 saves and the next 20 saves you got right in the gut where you could have had some easy saves. That’s what I mean that it could be misleading, those stats, and make you feel you are playing better than you are — or worse.”
The Maple Leafs had defenseman Connor Carrick paired with Travis Dermott during the practice Friday, replacing Roman Polak.