The league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning enter Tuesday's meeting with Ottawa riding a 9-0-1 streak as they try to hold off the Boston Bruins atop the Eastern Conference standings. Tampa Bay has also won five consecutive games overall.
But with a matchup against Boston looming this weekend, the Lightning know they can't afford to overlook Tuesday's game against the Senators.
"At this time of year, you have teams that are in the playoffs who are trying to be at their best and other teams who are trying to get in the playoffs, so everyone is trying to play their best at this time of year," Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. "It's competitive hockey, it's fun hockey, so we need to expect tight, defensive games."
Tampa Bay has found a way to win close games, with six of the past seven games decided in overtime, five of which have been won by the Lightning.
"You have to give credit to the guys, they've found a way to get points and that's what you have to do," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.
The Senators, long out of the playoff picture, know that opponents like Florida and Tampa Bay have something to play for and expect to see that type of effort from their opponent. On Monday, they were ready to match it from the start, building a 2-0 lead in the opening period.
"We were outstanding in the first, I thought we could have had at least another two goals," Ottawa center Matt Duchene told the Ottawa Sun. "That's a team really desperate for points right now."
Ottawa, which is without forward Mark Stone, has struggled with back-to-back games of late and knows it will have all it can handle facing a Tampa Bay team that beat the Senators already during the 10-game stretch.
"We've been playing real good for some time now, but the two games that have been difficult for us, even though we kept them close, have been the back-to-backs (against Arizona and Tampa Bay)," Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher told the team's website.
"Now we have a back-to-back against a team that is 9-0-1 in its past 10, so we have to find a way to be better than we were in the previous two back-to-backs."