Panthers-Senators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 26, 2011
It's been nearly a year since the Ottawa Senators enjoyed a four-game winning streak. Facing the Florida Panthers could help them recapture those positive feelings again. Surging Ottawa looks to match its longest win streak from last season and make it seven consecutive victories over the Panthers on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place. It came as no surprise when the young Senators won only one of their first six games, but the team has been much better lately. Ottawa (4-5-0) ended a three-game skid with a 4-1 win over Winnipeg last Thursday, rallied with two goals in the final minute to beat Columbus 4-3 on Saturday and stopped a seven-game skid at Carolina with a 3-2 shootout victory Tuesday. Jason Spezza continued his hot start with his fifth goal and delivered the shootout winner to give the Senators their first road win in four tries. "I think we deserved to win tonight," Spezza said. "We played hard, we frustrated them, and right until the end they didn't have much. We're playing more comfortable and clogging things up." Spezza has goals in four straight games and eight points during that span. Craig Anderson has been in net for all three wins during the streak, posting a 1.95 goals-against average. Anderson, who played for the Panthers from 2006-09, is 4-0-1 with a 1.98 GAA against his former team. Another key to Ottawa's improved play is the power play, which has converted four of the last seven opportunities. The Senators played Tuesday without captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was scratched with an injured right hip. He is likely to return for this game. Ottawa, which won a season-best four straight Nov. 2-9, has outscored Florida 24-10 during six straight wins in the series. The Senators are 17-5-2 in this matchup since the start of the 2005-06 season. The Panthers (5-3-0) have exceeded expectations through the first two weeks and are coming off back-to-back victories. After beating the New York Islanders 4-2 on Saturday, Florida opened a three-game trip Monday with a 2-1 victory over Montreal behind Jacob Markstrom's 40 saves. "The whole team was playing unbelievably well and stuck with it for 60 minutes, and this is the result," said Markstrom, appearing in his fourth NHL game. Markstrom has been better than veteran Jose Theodore, but rookie coach Kevin Dineen was quick to diffuse any goaltending controversy. "Theo is our starter. He's a great player and will get back in there soon," Dineen said. "But Jacob Markstrom not only earned the start but earned the victory. He's doing a great job. I don't get too mixed up in the big-picture decisions, just the little day-to-day things." Theodore is 2-5-2 with a 3.20 GAA in his last nine starts against the Senators. With 10 points in their first eight games, the Panthers are off to their best start since opening 5-1-1 with one tie in 1999-2000, the season of their last playoff appearance.
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