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Tuesday, March 31st (All times eastern)

Ottawa Senators (33-32-10) at Florida Panthers (37-28-11), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - If the Panthers are to make the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, they might have their backup netminder to thank. Craig Anderson is expected to make his third straight start tonight versus the Ottawa Senators at BankAtlantic Center.

Anderson made his first appearance since March 1 on Thursday versus Philadelphia and made 40 saves in the victory. It was a gutsy move by head coach Peter DeBoer, who will go with his backup netminder again tonight over Tomas Vokoun with his team one point back of Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Panthers have 85 points on the season but have also played one more game than the Canadiens, who host Chicago tonight.

Anderson made his second straight start on Saturday versus Dallas and made 32 saves. He has faced the Senators four times in his career and is 2-1-0 with a 2.06 goals against average.

Cory Stillman finished with a goal and two assists in Saturday's 6-3 win. Nathan Horton, Radek Dvorak, Stephen Weiss and Jay Bouwmeester each had a goal and an assist for Florida, which had lost seven of its last eight prior to consecutive wins. The club has scored 10 goals over its last two games after netting just 16 over the previous eight.

The Panthers begin a three-game homestand tonight and are 19-11-7 as the host this season. Florida has lost four of its last five in Sunrise and will also receive visits from Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

While the Panthers are hoping to end their seven year absence from the postseason, the Senators are inching closer to having their run of 11 straight playoff appearances end. Ottawa, which played in the Stanley Cup Finals just two years ago, is 11th overall in the East with 76 points, 10 behind Montreal with seven games to play.

Ottawa ended a back-breaking two-game losing streak on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Tampa Bay. Rookie Brian Elliott halted all 20 shots he faced to post his first-career shutout, one game after getting pulled in the second period of Saturday's 6-3 loss to Atlanta.

Elliott, who has never faced Florida, has still won nine of his last 11 starts and is 16-6-3 in 29 games this season with a 2.64 GAA.

Skating in his 500th career game, Dany Heatley notched his team-leading 35th goal, while Ryan Shannon lit the lamp in a fourth straight contest and posted his sixth point of a five-game point streak. Jason Spezza scored his 30th goal of the season in helping the Sens win for the sixth time in eight games.

Ottawa has split the first four games of a six-game road trip that will end in Boston on Thursday. The Senators are 13-20-4 as the visiting team this year.

The Sens are 1-1-1 versus the Panthers this year, but have won eight of the last 11 in the series. Ottawa has also posted a victory in four of five and in 12 of its last 14 trips to Sunrise.

03/31 10:48:13 ET


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