The NHL is a strange place.
If the Senators played in the Western Conference, they'd be in last place right now with 8 teams to climb over to make the playoffs. Strangely enough, that would be a preferable situation than 11th place which is where they are now in the East. That's because the Oilers hold the last playoff spot in the West with only 62 points as opposed to the Sabres and Panthers with 66 points each in the East.
Now with news that Daniel Alfredsson has a broken jaw, that 13 point differential looks a lot bigger than it did yesterday. I haven't seen anything in the press as of right now that states how long he is expected to be out, but obviously it's a cruel blow.
While it's some consolation to be above the hated cross provincial rival Toronto in the standings, there is a slew of teams ahead of Ottawa who are both going up and down.
It's only a matter of time before Pittsburgh starts playing better under new coach Dan Bylsma and that is certainly the team to watch right now. Carolina doesn't seem capable of a big run but they don't show any signs of being in a big slide either. They'll be hovering around 9th for the rest of the season unless GM Jim Rutherford can get some more scoring in that lineup.
The Florida Panthers are on a roll right now and while they won't catch Washington for the South East lead, they are only three points behind Philadelphia for fourth in the conference. If Tomas Vokoun keeps playing better, I think they are a lock to make the playoffs. It just seems like this is finally their year but the Jay Bouwmeester situation could seriously derail their season.
That leaves the New York Rangers, the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres as the likely targets for the Senators playoff hopes.
We all know the horror show surrounding the Habs and the Rangers but they would both have to fall a long ways for Ottawa to catch them.
The difference between the Rangers and the Habs is that Montreal GM Bob Gainey is being proactive by trading for Mathieu Schneider, sending players down to the minors and attempting to straighten out Alexei Kovalev with some extremely tough love. I think Gainey's moves will pay off for Montreal and they'll revert to form down the road here.
The Rangers GM Glen Sather is standing pat for now even though they only have two wins in their last ten. He is getting heavily criticized for signing Wade Redden to that huge contract and his team can't score anymore. Scott Gomez only has 11 goals on the year and they are missing Jaromir Jagr in a bad way. To me, the Rangers are the most likely candidate to fall out of their playoff spot.
The Sabres are consistent but they also don't have Thomas Vanek for the next while. The Senators can only hope that Ryan Miller gets tired out and starts losing an alarming amount of weight like he did at the end of last season. Don't bet on it.
It's unfortunate for the Senators that their current point streak has come at the expense of three Western Conference foes (they still have to play Vancouver, San Jose, Edmonton and Calgary down the stretch) but they still get to play Carolina twice, Montreal three times, the Rangers once, the Sabres twice and the Penguins once.
Those are a lot of points right there if they can grab them.