The Ottawa Senators are playing some of their best hockey of late. Things could get even better with the expected return of another key performer.
The surging Senators could have veteran forward Milan Michalek back in the lineup Thursday night when they try for a season-high fifth straight victory -- and fifth straight over the visiting St. Louis Blues.
Michalek, the team's second-leading scorer with 16 goals in his first season since being traded to Ottawa from San Jose in the Dany Heatley deal, appears set to return after suffering a concussion in a 5-2 loss at Washington on Jan. 7.
"I feel good now," Michalek told the Senators' official Web site. "We'll see (Thursday) morning how I feel, but (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) I skated and it felt really good. Hopefully, I'll play and it will be fine."
Michalek's return could only provide a boost for the Senators (26-21-4), who beat Chicago 4-1 at home Tuesday for their fourth straight victory after losing a season-high five in a row.
The Senators have outscored their opponents 15-4 during the winning stretch after being outscored 22-5 during their recent skid.
Ottawa, 3-0 since star Daniel Alfredsson returned Saturday after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury, could also have forward Jason Spezza back as early as this weekend. Spezza has missed more than a month with a knee injury.
The Senators, however, are only looking ahead to their next contest. Ottawa has won four in a row over St. Louis, which has also dropped its last four games in Ottawa.
"It feels good," said Ottawa's Brian Elliott, who made 29 saves Tuesday to improve to 12-11-3 with a 2.76 goals-against average. "You don't want to focus on it too much. You've got to look ahead to the next game and the guys are all doing that."
The Blues (22-20-7) have won five of six after a 4-3 overtime victory at Montreal on Wednesday. Alex Steen and Paul Kariya each had a goal with an assist, and Andy McDonald snapped a five-game goal drought with the winner as St. Louis improved to 5-3-1 since Davis Payne replaced fired coach Andy Murray on Jan. 2.
Steen has four goals in five games for the Blues, who've scored 19 times in their last six contests.
Elliott could be charged with stopping St. Louis after allowing two goals on 53 shots in his last two contests. In his only start against the Blues, Elliott made 22 saves in Ottawa's 3-1 road victory in the teams' last meeting Jan. 29.
Mike Fisher scored twice and Peter Regin added a goal in that contest for Ottawa, which has outscored the Blues 13-6 during its current winning streak in the series.
Regin had a goal with an assist and Fisher scored against Chicago. Fisher has two goals and five assists in his last four games.
Though the Blues' Ty Conklin stopped 35 shots against Montreal, Chris Mason is likely to be in net for this contest. Mason, who has a 1.82 GAA while winning four of his last five starts, is 1-1-0 with a 1.01 GAA all-time against the Senators.
Though St. Louis is 13-6-4 on the road this season, it hasn't won at Ottawa since a 4-1 victory Jan. 26, 2000.