It's Raleigh time for Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Can the Senators score a perfect 10?

That's what it might take to move from 12th to eighth spot and secure the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference over their last 10 games of the regular season.

The next stage in the journey continues tonight as their interrupted six-game road trip (the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 in New York on Sunday) resumes against the Hurricanes at the RBC Center.

Ottawa -- which is looking to chase down Montreal, Florida, Buffalo and Toronto for the eighth seed -- will also make stops in Atlanta, Tampa, Florida and Boston on the trip.

While winning all five games will be a tall task, the Senators are on a five-game winning streak and have won 9-of-10 as the Cory Clouston-coached machine rolls on.

Two weeks ago, was there anyone talking about Ottawa making the post-season?

"It's great. We've played very well lately and we've been able to put ourselves where we're back in contention," Senators defenceman Brendan Bell said yesterday. "We know that we're still a longshot (to make the playoffs), but the way that we're playing, anything can happen.

"Our mindset has completely changed. We're just a really comfortable bunch right now. Our system seems to be working and we've got teams back on their heels early in games. You can't help but start feeling good when you've got teams in that position."

The difference right now is the Senators are playing with confidence. They're scoring timely goals and getting solid goaltending.

"Confidence is everything, really," said Senators winger Jarkko Ruutu. "You can't get cocky, but when you're confident, you work hard, you do things the right way on the ice and you trust your teammates. Confidence can take you anywhere. We just have to worry about one game.

"We can't start worrying about what might happen 10 games from now. We're pretty entertaining right now. We're taking more chances, we're creating more offensively and we're not giving as much at the other end of the ice. It's a lot easier when you're winning games and scoring first."

And the first step is beating Carolina tonight as the Senators stick to the "one-game-at-a-time" mantra.

"The challenge is to stay in the present," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "The closer we get, the more tension it's going to create, but we have to take it day-by-day. We know the odds are not great. We've got to give it everything we have and see how far we can go.

"We're having fun doing it and we'd like to keep it going. We talked at the start of the year that we were a better team and that we underachieved. I don't know if people believed us, but it's nice to turn it around and to win consistently. We've had some really good winning streaks. For us to get in, we just need to keep it going."


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