|Senators look for back-to-back sweep in St. Louis|
An eight-game losing streak spanning December and January extinguished whatever embers remained of the Ottawa Senators' playoff hopes, even if the skid did provide some important lessons for a rebuilding team.
Now the Senators hope to apply what they learned and try to knock another borderline contender further out of the postseason picture, when Ottawa visits the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
The Senators will be completing a back-to-back set of road games after beating the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1, on Friday night. The Blues last played Wednesday night, when they dropped their second straight game by falling to the host Boston Bruins, 5-2.
The win on Friday was the second straight and the fourth in five games for the Senators, whose run was preceded by an eight-game losing streak (0-7-1) in which they absorbed four one-goal defeats.
But the Senators (19-24-5) have outscored the opposition 16-9 over the last five games, a span in which they registered three wins by three goals. Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher said the recent success is a matter of applying the same effort as during the losing streak, while tightening up affairs on both sides of the ice.
"Really, what's happening is one goal less a game and one goal more a game," Boucher said following Friday night's game. "That's the NHL right there. So I think our guys held on during those eight games, still playing well and believing, and we're just getting the benefit of that."
The Blues (20-21-5) are also hanging on to the belief they engendered during a 16-game span from Dec. 11 through Jan. 14, when they went 10-6-0 to jump back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
St. Louis' hot streak included two three-goal wins over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, as well as a victory over the Western-leading Calgary Flames.
"Players are all watching (the scoreboard), they all see where we're at," Blues interim head coach Craig Berube told reporters Friday. "And they all believe we can keep winning and get in, so there's a good feel around here for sure."
The game Saturday is the last chance for the Blues to generate momentum at home for three weeks. St. Louis has a five-game road trip spanning the All-Star Break and won't play again at Enterprise Center until Feb. 9.
The Senators' top goalie, Craig Anderson, is expected to return from a concussion Saturday, when he will likely oppose Blues rookie Jordan Binnington.
Anderson was injured against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 21, when he took the loss after allowing five goals on 25 shots over two periods as the Senators fell 5-2. He missed the next 11 games before serving as the backup to Anders Nilsson on Friday, when Nilsson earned the win by making 33 saves against the Hurricanes.
Berube said he is going to implement a split between Binnington and longtime No. 1 goalie Jake Allen.
Binnington, who is 3-0-1 since being recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League, is the hotter hand than Allen, who is 1-2-0 in his last three starts. In addition, Allen's home/road splits -- he is allowing 3.65 goals in 21 home game this year and 2.33 goals in 15 road games -- make it more likely Binnington will play Saturday night.
Anderson is 4-4-0 in 10 career games against the Blues. Binnington has never faced the Senators.
--Field Level Media