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Senators brace for stern challenge vs. streaking Lightning

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The Ottawa Senators meet the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon for the second time this season in Canada’s capital city.

The Senators also will try to pick up where they left off prior to hosting the New York Islanders.

Ottawa had won three straight games before dropping a 5-3 decision to the Islanders on Tuesday. The Senators’ recent run of success is reason for hope in a season that has had the club in the Atlantic Division’s basement most of the time.

An interesting aspect of the three wins was how the Senators went about it: They won the first in regulation, the second in overtime and the final one via shootout.

Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said the difference in his bunch now compared to the beginning of the season is night and day.

“You can see some confidence. Earlier in the year, we wouldn’t have won that game,” Smith said after Monday’s 3-2 shootout road win over the New Jersey Devils. “We would have found a way to make a mistake or guys would’ve panicked a little bit.”

Smith credited the standout play of the forward group’s top line — captain Brady Tkachuk, center Josh Norris and right wing Drake Batherson — and the development of top defenseman Thomas Chabot.

The contest against the Islanders completed a stretch of five games in seven days, with Ottawa posting a 3-2-0 mark.

“Looking back on the five games in seven days we had, I think we’ve had a good stretch,” Chabot said. “We’re starting to turn things around.”

The Lightning continued their hot play with a 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

It was a season-high fifth consecutive victory — with the last four coming on their five-game road trip. Tampa Bay is 5-0-1 in its last six games overall.

The contest marked the Lightning debut of new center Riley Nash, who was a waiver claim from the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

Grouped with wingers Boris Katchouk and Gabriel Fortier, the 32-year-old Nash tried to keep his game simple as he kept up with the rookie forwards.

“You just want to go forward and forecheck and hit,” Nash told Bally Sports Sun during the first intermission break. “I just try to read off those two guys and let them use their assets to the best of their ability. I’ll fill in the gaps.”

Approaching his 600th game played, Nash logged 11:24 of ice time and won five of his seven faceoffs against Toronto.

In the triumph, Jon Cooper became the 39th coach to record 400 wins. He was the fastest to reach the milestone, doing so in 659 games. He beat the Vancouver Canucks’ new bench boss Bruce Boudreau by four games.

Captain Steven Stamkos recorded four points (one goal, three assists) against Toronto. He has recorded at least a point in each of his last nine games that he has played.

Center Anthony Cirelli is day-to-day after missing Thursday’s contest with an upper-body injury.

–Field Level Media

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