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The playoff-bound Ottawa Senators appear to be getting hot at just the right time.
A visit from the deflated Carolina Hurricanes seems unlikely to slow them down.
The Senators try for a fifth consecutive victory and an eighth home win in nine meetings with the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
Ottawa (41-28-10), which missed out on last season's playoffs, locked up a postseason berth with Sunday's 5-1 road win over the New York Islanders. Kyle Turris scored twice and added two assists while Milan Michalek, Sergei Gonchar and Nick Foligno posted a combined seven points for the Senators, who were without captain Daniel Alfredsson and leading scorer Jason Spezza.
"We knew we were missing two key guys but we played a very solid and focused team game," said coach Paul MacLean, who heads to the playoffs in his first season behind the bench. "The leadership on our team did a tremendous job all season to pull us up by our bootstraps and create a winning foundation."
After finding the back of the net just nine times during a 1-3-2 slide March 10-23, Ottawa has broken out in a big way - notching 22 goals during its current run.
"We're going in the right direction, coming together at the right time and playing hard as a team," defenseman Chris Phillips said. "We had a lot to prove this year and we've done well with that so far. Now we look to the playoffs."
While Alfredsson (flu) and Spezza, who was with his wife for the birth of their second daughter, will certainly be back for the playoffs, it's unknown if they'll suit up against the Hurricanes (31-32-16).
Leading the team with 82 points, Spezza has given Carolina fits of late, especially at Scotiabank Place - where he's tallied six goals and nine assists during a nine-game point streak in the series. He scored twice during a 4-3 win Nov. 27 as the Senators improved to 7-1-0 over their last eight home matchups with the Hurricanes.
The night after being eliminated with a 4-3 overtime loss to Winnipeg, Carolina dropped to 1-3-1 over its last five games with Saturday's 5-0 loss to New Jersey.
"The emotional letdown of not making the playoffs hit us," coach Kirk Muller said. "It's easy to say we're going to go right to the end, but I think, if anything, it obviously showed that guys are disappointed and it affected our play."
Ward had gone 1-4-0 with a 3.66 GAA over his previous five road starts before turning away all 30 shots in last Tuesday's 3-0 win at Toronto.
The Senators' Craig Anderson made 29 saves against the Islanders, improving to 8-1-0 with a 1.92 GAA in his last nine games. He is 4-0-3 with a 2.92 GAA lifetime versus Carolina.
Sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind New Jersey, Ottawa could have plenty of motivation to play for sixth. The Senators are 1-4-0 against No. 2 seed Boston, but 3-1-0 against likely third seed Florida.
If Ottawa can get within two points over the next two games, it'll have a chance to catch the Devils in Saturday's finale at New Jersey.
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