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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, March 20th (All times eastern)

Ottawa Senators (37-29-5) at Dallas Stars (30-27-13), 2 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A poor recent stretch has caused the Ottawa Senators to lose ground in the Northeast Division race, while the Dallas Stars' chances of reaching the postseason have taken a serious hit due to the team's performance following the Olympic break.

These two slumping clubs will face off this afternoon at the American Airlines Center, where the Stars continue what's been a rough homestand thus far.

Dallas has gone 1-2-1 through the first four tests of a critical six-game residency, with the lone victory a startling 8-2 rout of Pacific Division leader San Jose on Tuesday. The Stars failed to build off that impressive win, however, after dropping a 3-2 decision to Philadelphia Thursday night.

A pair of goals from Steve Ott gave Dallas a 2-1 lead after one period, but the Flyers drew even in the second before moving in front to stay on Scott Hartnell's tally 7:55 into the final frame.

The Stars pulled goaltender Kari Lehtonen for an extra attacker with 1:18 remaining, but couldn't score despite owning a power play for the final 29 seconds.

Dallas fell to a disappointing 2-6-1 since the NHL returned to action at the conclusion of the Winter Olympics and now trails Detroit and Calgary by eight points for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference. Still, Ott remarked afterward that he saw positive signs out of his team's most recent defeat.

"I hate losing as much as anybody, but when there's pride in losing and character in losing, that's what [Thursday] was," Ott said. "Every single line played very well. Kari played great, the D played good. It's pretty hard to be super-upset when the guys put so much pride and character into it."

The Senators haven't had much to feel good about as of late. Ottawa is a woeful 1-6-1 since the break and enters today's matchup saddled with a four- game losing streak after Thursday's 6-3 setback at Atlanta, in which the Thrashers scored three unanswered goals in the third period to break a tie game.

Ottawa, which had mustered one goal or less in each of its first six losses following the NHL's stoppage, did receive scores out of Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Phillips within a 43-second span late in the second period to fight back from a 3-1 deficit.

"It's tough when you get behind early," said Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston. "We're in the same situation we were when we lost five in a row in January. We have to get back on a roll here, but it's tough to win games when you spot teams two or three goals right off the bat."

Goaltender Brian Elliott continued his struggles between the pipes, yielding all six Atlanta goals on 21 shots. The 24-year-old has posted a 3.11 goals against average and an .870 save percentage in his last six appearances (5 starts).

The Senators' slide has dropped them five points behind Buffalo for the top spot in the Northeast Division and into a fifth-place tie with Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference, with Montreal lurking just one point behind in seventh. Ottawa will visit the Canadiens on Monday in the finale of a current three-game road swing.

Ottawa, which has lost three straight and six of its last eight as the guest, has prevailed in its last two encounters with the Stars. The Senators came through with a 4-2 win at the American Airlines Center on December 7, 2007 and bested Dallas in overtime by a 5-4 score in Ottawa last season.

03/20 10:34:06 ET

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