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Ottawa Senators (34-24-8) at Florida Panthers (30-22-12), 6 p.m. (ET)

(Sports Network) - The Florida Panthers are hoping a tough stretch in the schedule doesn't knock them out of first place. The Ottawa Senators, meanwhile, are aiming to rise to the top of their division during a visit to that Sunshine State.

The Panthers may have the tougher task this evening as they try to avoid a 10th straight loss to the Senators.

Florida began a string of four straight games last night against teams currently in the playoff picture of their respective conferences. That span did not get off to a great start as the Panthers suffered a 3-1 loss at the hands of the Predators, who got 39 saves from goaltender Pekka Rinne.

Wojtek Wolski scored Florida's lone goal and Scott Clemmensen made 20 saves for the Panthers, who were coming off Thursday's 7-0 loss at Winnipeg that ended a three-game win streak. Florida leads the Jets by only two points for the top spot in the Southeast Division and the Capitals are three off the pace.

"You have to be very sensitive because I think our goaltending was very good tonight, and I don't say this in a sarcastic or negative way at all but goaltending was the difference tonight," said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. "It had nothing to do with what went on at our end. The goals that were scored on us, there were a couple of breakdowns, but certainly Pekka Rinne earns his keep everytime he goes out there."

The Panthers played a third straight game without Kris Versteeg, who leads the club with 22 goals and 49 points. The forward is out with a lower-body injury, leaving Florida minus one of its top scoring threats for this rough span of games. Though Florida gets three days off following today's contest, it will then visit playoff-contenders Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on back-to-back nights starting Thursday.

First, the Panthers will try to beat the Senators for the first time since Jan. 9, 2010 and avoid getting swept in the four-game series. Ottawa took a pair of home meetings earlier this season by just one goal each, but posted a 6-2 win when the clubs met in Florida on Feb. 15.

Jason Spezza had a game-high three assists in that win, while Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson had a goal and an assist each. Former Panther Craig Anderson made 42 saves in the win, but he is currently sidelined with a lacerated right pinky finger. He missed his fourth straight game on Friday, with Robin Lehner making his third straight in a row in a 2-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

Lehner allowed two goals on 39 shots and Michalek had the goal for the Senators, who had won six of seven and sit three back of the first-place Bruins in the Northeast Division. Ottawa, which visits Tampa Bay on Tuesday, is also a point back of both New Jersey and Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference's fifth seed.

Spezza assisted on Michalek's 29th goal of the season, giving him eight goals and 14 helpers for 22 points over an 11-game point streak, the longest active run in the NHL. Still, Ottawa could not overcome former Sens Marian Hossa and Ray Emery in the loss to Chicago.

"They're a good team, they have lots of skill," Lehner said. "They were flying from the start. It's too bad we came up short, I think we came back really well and had some good chances."

The Senators have won five straight and six of their last seven at Florida as well as four in a row as the guest overall. They have outscored their opponents 17-2 over that win streak while posting three shutouts.

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