The Ottawa Senators' outstanding run has moved them atop the Northeast Division. The Detroit Red Wings' chances of claiming a ninth straight Central Division title are fading fast.
Coming off a win over the Eastern Conference's best team, the Senators look to continue their superb play by beating the reigning Western champions Saturday night when they visit the sputtering Red Wings.
Ottawa (35-22-4) put together a franchise-record 11-game winning streak before falling 5-0 at Toronto last Saturday. The Senators responded with a pair of one-goal victories, including Thursday's 6-5 win over East-leading Washington.
"It was a great test for us," said defenseman Chris Phillips, who scored the go-ahead goal in the third period. "We played one of the top teams in the game right now and we stuck with them. We didn't get intimidated by their offensive ability. They obviously showed it again and we didn't get down, we battled back and that's what's so great about this team right now."
The Senators have surged to the top of the Northeast, one point ahead of second-place Buffalo, and it appears they have a good chance to be there during the two-week Olympic break starting Monday. After facing the struggling Red Wings, Ottawa visits the last-place New York Islanders on Sunday.
Jason Spezza has been a big reason for the Senators' recent success, accumulating nine goals and four assists in nine games after missing 20 with a knee injury. The center has a goal in all but one of his last 11 contests.
Spezza scored twice in Ottawa's last visit to Detroit (27-21-12), a 3-2 win Dec. 12, 2006. The score was the same in each of the two meetings since that matchup, with the Red Wings winning the only one last season.
Detroit, though, has lost a season-high four in a row to fall 14 points behind first-place Chicago in the Central. The last time the Red Wings didn't win a division crown was the 1999-00 season, and now they're in danger of not even making the playoffs.
Detroit has dropped into a tie with Dallas for ninth in the West, one point behind Calgary for the eighth and final playoff position. The Wings haven't been out of a playoff spot this late in a season since 1989-90 -- the last time they failed to qualify.
The Red Wings' slide continued Thursday with their second consecutive shootout loss, 3-2 to West-leading San Jose.
"I think we played good. We played with a lot of speed," right wing Johan Franzen said. "It looked like last year, not like the past two months here."
Injuries have played a major role in Detroit's subpar season, though Franzen appears to have recovered from a torn ACL that sidelined him for 55 games. He had a goal Thursday after assisting on one in Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss at St. Louis in his return from the injury.
Franzen scored twice against Ottawa last season.
The Senators hope the addition of Matt Cullen can eventually help them in the playoffs. They acquired the center before the NHL was to freeze rosters Friday for the Olympic break, sending defenseman Alexandre Picard and a second-round pick in June's draft to Carolina.
Cullen was a valuable third-line center on the Hurricanes team that won the 2006 Stanley Cup and reached the conference finals last year. He has 12 goals and 28 assists in 60 games this season.