NHL On Tap: Senators visit Penguins looking to gain in playoff race

Welcome to NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the two games Friday.

Ottawa needs to seize its chances

The Ottawa Senators (20-21-3) were regarded as a team that had a shot to push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, given the additions they made (Claude Giroux included) and a maturing young core. So far it hasn’t quite gone that way. But if the Senators want to have a chance — they sit eight points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins (22-15-7) and New York Islanders (23-19-5) for the second wild card in a stacked Eastern Conference — these are the games they have to take advantage of: They face the Penguins for the second of a home-and-home series, this time at PPG Paints Arena (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, ATTSN-PT, RDS, TSN5, SN NOW), after defeating them 5-4 in overtime Wednesday. They got forward Josh Norris back after he missed 38 games with a shoulder injury, making it a perfect time to turn their season around — if they’re going to do it. Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk called it a “do or die” game with a playoff atmosphere. That’s exactly what it has to be. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer


Avalanche, MacKinnon, Lehkonen look to extend streaks

The Colorado Avalanche (23-17-3) aim for their fourth straight win when they face the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena (10 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNP, ALT, ESPN+, SN NOW). They’ve been powered by players who are riding point streaks: Nathan MacKinnon (four goals and nine assists during a six-game point streak) and Artturi Lehkonen (five goals, one assist in a three-game run). The Canucks (18-23-3) are 2-8-0 in their past 10 games. Their captain, Bo Horvat, has 10 points (four goals, six assists) during an NHL career-high 10 game-point streak. Quinn Hughes had a goal and assist in a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday to extend his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists). — William Douglas, staff writer


Pittsburgh looks to rebound

The Penguins spent 15:26 of the game Wednesday short-handed while allowing four power-play goals on nine chances. “We gave up four goals-against [on the penalty kill]; it’s not good enough,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When you spend a third of the game trying to kill penalties, it puts an awful lot of burden on those guys.” Still, Pittsburgh has points in 11 of its past 13 games against Ottawa (8-2-3) dating to March 23, 2017. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has points in five straight games against the Senators (two goals, eight assists) and needs one even-strength goal to tie Stan Mikita (379) for 24th in NHL history. — Mike G. Morreale, staff writer


Friday games

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; NHLN; ATTSN-PT, TSN5, RDS, SN NOW)

Crosby (52 points; 21 goals, 31 assists in 44 games) reached 50 points in a season for the 16th time in his 18 NHL seasons. The only active player with more is Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (17). Tkachuk needs one overtime goal to tie Mike Fisher for first in Senators history (7).

Colorado Avalanche at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNP, ALT, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen has five goals in his past five games, two in a 4-1 win at the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. He became the sixth NHL player to score 30 goals this season. Canucks forward Elias Pettersson has gone without a point in two straight games. He had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in his previous 11.

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