The Calgary Flames' recent hot streak has put them in position to make the playoffs in the fiercely competitive Western Conference, and now the challenge is to maintain that standing.
They'll have to do it without top forward Alex Tanguay, who the Flames listed Wednesday as out indefinitely with a concussion. Tanguay has 14 goals and 28 assists in 54 games, and was riding a three-game point streak before being held off the scoreesheet Monday against Chicago.
Calgary is 7-0-1 in the last eight, and the 3-1 win over the Blackhawks has the Flames back in the top eight.
"I think if you asked the guys at the beginning of the year, this is kind of where we expected to be," Brendan Morrison said Tuesday. "Is it shocking that we're in this spot? Not really. But maybe more surprising how we got there."
Morrison says the difference is that the Flames are finding a way to fight through and win the one-goal games they were losing earlier in the season. Calgary had a span of 12 games beginning in late October in which they lost seven by one goal. Another defeat was a one-goal game until the opposition sealed it with an empty-net score.
Case in point was Monday, when Curtis Glencross broke a 1-1 tie in the third against the Blackhawks.
The goal helped the Flames land in the top eight for the first time since early in the season, but they can't afford to pat themselves on the back. At 55 games played already, they've fewer left to work with than most of the Western teams.
The Senators have dropped 10 in a row, eight in regulation.
The club announced Wednesday after the morning skate that Daniel Alfredsson is out indefinitely with a lower back injury, but the forward is hopeful he can return to action within the next couple of weeks.
"I've been having a little bit of a problem the last few weeks especially," Alfredsson said. "I was hoping the all-star break was going to help me to go forward but the last two games, it hasn't been as good as I would have liked."
Senators head coach Cory Clouston admitted his captain needed some time off.
"It's the only thing we can do right now," Clouston said. "It's to the point where we don't want to put him in jeopardy as far as health. He's not able to do the things he wants to be able to do right now, and it's getting worse and worse. It's been a while since he's been anywhere near 100 per cent."
The 38-year-old Swede has had an up-and-down season, recording 14 goals and 17 assists in 54 games.
Ottawa battled hard Monday against Vancouver but fell behind early against the powerful Canucks. The final score was 4-2.
Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist in his second game back after six weeks out because of a shoulder injury.
"I didn't think of my shoulder at all last game, so that's usually the No. 1 sign when you're coming back from an injury, you can be a little tentative," Spezza said.
The Flames came out on top in the first meeting between the clubs, with David Moss staking Calgary to an early lead with two goals in a 3-2 result in Ottawa.
Calgary will be in action again Friday at the Saddledome against Anaheim, while Ottawa kicks off Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday afternoon against Edmonton (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET).With files from the Canadian Press