The Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks met with the Stanley Cup on the line less than three years ago, but both teams have plenty of work to do if they hope to get back to that point.
Each will be trying to snap a four-game losing streak when the clubs meet Sunday night in Anaheim, with Ottawa still trying for its first win over the Ducks since Anaheim claimed the Cup in 2007.
The Ducks' early struggles have been especially surprising after they came within one game of a return to the Western Conference finals last season, but they've been plagued recently by late-game collapses.
Coach Randy Carlyle's team has been tied or ahead in the third period in each of its four consecutive losses, and Anaheim led 4-2 with five minutes to play at Minnesota on Friday night. But two late goals tied it, and the Wild won 5-4 in a shootout.
"It's getting old, that's for sure," captain Scott Niedermayer said. "You have yourself the lead late in the third, you should be able to get the win and two points in pretty much all of those cases."
Anaheim (10-13-5) remains a distant fifth in the Pacific Division, and the team will have to play at least the next month without veteran Teemu Selanne, who's tied for the team lead with 14 goals. Selanne broke his hand Thursday and needed surgery.
While the Ducks got good news when Joffrey Lupul returned from a seven-game absence (back spasms) and scored two goals in Minnesota, they're still having problems at the other end, as Jonas Hiller has gone 1-4-1 with a 3.82 goals-against average in his last six starts.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere may be back in net Sunday after compiling a 1.77 GAA in his last five outings. Giguere was 4-1-0 with a 2.21 GAA against Ottawa in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals as the Ducks won in five games.
Anaheim has won both meetings between the teams since that series, earning a 4-3 road victory in the most recent matchup Oct. 24, 2008.
The Senators (13-10-4) haven't won a playoff game since watching the Ducks celebrate, and they missed the postseason last spring for the first time since 1996. They've opened this five-game road trip, which began with visits to Boston and San Jose, with four consecutive losses, the last three coming in regulation.
"We knew this was going to be a tough road trip, but we would have liked to start it better," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said.
Overall, they've dropped seven straight road games since a 4-3 win at Florida on Oct. 28. The skid's timing has been eerily similar to the team's 12-game road losing streak from Nov. 1-Dec. 28, 2008.
Ottawa was behind 3-0 on Saturday at Phoenix before a comeback attempt in the final four minutes fell short in a 3-2 loss.
"We have to play with that kind of desperation from the drop of the puck, not just the end," coach Cory Clouston said. "We've been giving up early goals and that's really costing us."
The Senators have fallen behind in the first eight minutes in each of their last three games, with goalie Brian Elliott struggling as he continues to fill in for injured starter Pascal Leclaire. Elliott is 0-3-1 with a 3.99 GAA on this trip.