OTTAWA -- The mission: Regain the edge.
The Rangers are 5-3-2 in the last 10 games, and although they remain in first place in the Eastern Conference, both the players and coach John Tortorella have to be peeking back at the pack.
"What's Pittsburgh, seven behind us?" Steve Eminger asked after practice Wednesday. In fact, the Penguins, who finally may have Sidney Crosby (concussion) back by next week, are surging. They moved within six points of the Rangers after Thursday night's 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs.
A tailspin is something the Rangers want to avoid, starting Thursday night against the Senators (34-25-8, 76 points), who are in seventh place in the East and a possible first-round opponent in the playoffs.
Ottawa has defeated the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist twice in three games, outscoring them 10-7. In their last meeting, on Jan. 12 at the Garden, the Senators beat the Rangers, 3-0, one of six times they have failed to score. The Rangers defeated the Senators, 5-4, in ScotiaBank Place on Oct. 29, in the ninth game of the season.
"We know how to play with edge,'' Tortorella said in a terse briefing. "It's the only way we can win."
Ryan Callahan is back in the lineup, but Brandon Dubinsky may not be available after missing the final 57 minutes of Tuesday's turnover-filled 4-1 loss to the Devils after his bout with Ryan Carter. Dubinsky traveled here but did not skate and is day-to-day.
"He got hit in the nose pretty hard. Having some problem with his sinus," Tortorella said. Initially, the team said he had a hand injury.
If Dubinsky isn't available, center John Mitchell, a healthy scratch ("He's struggling," Tortorella said) against the Devils, likely will be back in the lineup. He skated between Mike Rupp and John Scott at practice.
The Rangers are carrying 13 forwards and eight defensemen, although Stu Bickel, far better on the blue line, has been used up front. Defenseman Anton Stralman, also scratched Tuesday for the first time in 40 games, could return.
"We've got to bring it up a notch," Brandon Prust said. "Everybody else is battling for playoff position. We've got to make sure we're not comfortable. The last couple of weeks, we've relied on Hank a lot and found ways to win, which is a good sign, but we haven't been as good as we need to be."