The Ottawa Senators have made up a lot of ground in the standings over the past week. They still, however, have a long way to go to reach the playoffs for a 12th straight season.
The Senators look to extend their season-high winning streak to six games and complete a perfect five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
Ottawa (22-25-8), just two years removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, looked like it was assured of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96 with the way it was playing earlier this month.
On Feb. 5, the 13th-place Senators lost their fourth straight game to drop 16 points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Since then, the Senators have won five in a row to move up to 11th, but they are still 12 points behind eighth-place Buffalo.
Ottawa is coming off Monday's 2-0 win over Nashville, improving to 5-1-1 since Cory Clouston replaced Craig Hartsburg as coach on Feb. 2.
"Our neutral zone play these last few games has been night and day different from before," center Mike Fisher said. "We are creating turnovers and because of that we are allowed to use our speed and skill and go the other way."
Alex Auld made 24 saves to help the Senators improve to 4-0-0 on their five-game trip. Ottawa has never won every game of a five-game road trip in its 17-year history.
Auld, who came off the bench to replace an ineffective Brian Elliott in Saturday's 5-3 victory over Minnesota, has stopped all 41 shots he's faced in winning his last two games. He was 0-7-2 with a 3.93 goals-against average in his previous nine.
Auld has not faced the Avalanche (26-30-1) since making 40 saves in a 4-3 shootout victory for Vancouver on Jan. 28, 2006.
Nick Foligno and Dany Heatley continue to carry Ottawa's offense, each scoring in the first period Monday.
Foligno has four goals in his last six contests - the last two game-winners - after scoring six in his first 48 games of the season.
Heatley, who has a team-high 26 goals, has four in the last three games after tallying once in his previous eight.
Ottawa and Colorado haven't played since the Avalanche's 2-1 win on Oct. 19, 2006. The teams haven't met in Colorado since Ottawa's 6-2 victory Dec. 12, 2005.
The Avalanche occupies the bottom spot in the West, but defeated Central Division-leading Detroit 6-5 in a shootout on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak.
Defenseman Jordan Leopold scored in the fifth round of the shootout for Colorado, which had just five goals during its skid.
Colorado received some good news Monday when it learned center Paul Stastny, who has missed the last seven weeks with a broken right forearm, could return to the lineup as early as Friday at Washington.
The Avalanche begins a six-game, 11-day road trip against the Capitals.
"He'll be on the trip," coach Tony Granato said of Stastny. "Seven weeks since the surgery and a six- to eight-week time frame we'd thought he'd be back, so he's getting close."
Stastny had 10 goals and 21 assists this season. At the time of his injury, he led the team in scoring and is currently fourth.
Backup goalie Andrew Raycroft stopped 40 shots through regulation and overtime Sunday to snap a personal six-game losing streak. Raycroft, who is 3-4-2 with a 3.51 GAA and one shutout against the Senators since 2006-07, is expected to be in net Tuesday.