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The top line of the Ottawa Senators has been playing well. Coach Craig Hartsburg is hoping the trio of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley continue to produce Monday when they play the Florida Panthers looking for their fifth win in six games.
Ottawa (10-10-4) used a strong performance from its top line in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. Spezza recorded his second career hat trick in the second period for the Senators, keying a superb performance between Alfredsson and Heatley as they outplayed the Penguins' top line of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora.
"Spezz competed again," Hartsburg said. "When that line cranks up to work, hunts down loose pucks and has the puck, they make great plays."
The trio have accounted for 10 goals and 10 assists in Ottawa's last five games. In the one game Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley were held off the scoresheet, Spezza and Alfredsson both converted their chances in a shootout to help the Senators defeat the Maple Leafs.
Ottawa also got a boost in the return of forward Chris Neil, who had missed six games due to a knee injury, and defenseman Alexandre Picard - sidelined the last two games with a wrist injury. As the Senators push forward, Hartsburg is hoping this surge is the foundation for a longer stretch of improved play.
"We're playing better, but we've got to put a bunch of games (together)," he said. "I'm not talking four or five, but 25 or 30 play the same type of game. Our focus is to just continue to play like this."
Alfredsson has a goal and an assist in two games versus the Panthers this season, Heatley has one goal and Spezza one assist.
Florida (11-12-3) begins a five-game road swing with this trip, but is trying to regroup after a 4-0 loss to Boston on Saturday that ended a three-game winning streak.
"We had our chances and couldn't score, they had their chances and they scored," said Florida's Radek Dvorak, whose four-game points streak ended.
It is uncertain who will start in net for the Panthers. Craig Anderson, who made 42 saves in a 3-1 win at Ottawa on Oct. 22, left Saturday's game in the third period after hitting the back of his head off the crossbar following a collision with Boston's Patrice Bergeron.
Tomas Vokoun allowed one goal on five shots in the final 7:13 of Saturday's game and also played well against the Senators, turning aside 29 shots in a 2-1 defeat Oct. 30.
The Panthers have won four of their last six on the road and are hoping to use this game to gather momentum before stops at Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Carolina over the next 10 days.
"We've shown we can do it," center Gregory Campbell told the Panthers' official Web site. "We went to Anaheim and played a good game, we beat Ottawa in their building. It's a huge game for us. If we can play well (in Ottawa) and get two points, it will be huge for us going to Edmonton and Calgary."
Anderson's 42-save effort in October ended a four-game losing streak at Ottawa for the Panthers, who are 2-5-0 there since the start of the 2005-06 season.