Tkachuk: Sens treating games vs. Pens 'as do or die'
The Ottawa Senators continue to fight for a playoff spot and gained ground in the wild-card race Wednesday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4.
The Senators will play the Penguins, who currently hold the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, again on Friday as they look to close potentially within six points of a playoff spot.
"It's the team we're trying to catch," Tkachuk said of playing Pittsburgh. "We're treating this as do or die.
"It's a playoff atmosphere – energy, emotions. That's what we want to play with and that's what we want to carry going into the next game."
Entering play Thursday, the Senators are eight points back of the Penguins in the playoff race, with five teams sandwiched between them. The New York Islanders could jump Pittsburgh and sit in the final wild-card spot with a win over the Buffalo Sabres Thursday, though with three more games played than the Penguins.
Ottawa has split their previous 10 games, going 5-5 and struggling to gain ground. Josh Norris returned to the team's lineup Wednesday for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in October.
The Senators are hoping the 23-year-old forward, who had two shots and a penalty in 19:06 of ice time in his return, can provide a spark down the stretch.
"He makes our team so much better with him in the lineup," Tkachuk said. "We missed him. It didn't look like he was out of shape after being out three months.
"He looked unreal. His speed, his skating and his shot. For me, the personal connection I have with him, I was fired up tonight."
After reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, the Senators have missed the playoffs in each of the past five seasons.