Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is on pace to break his career-high mark of 78 points set four seasons ago, and a matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets should serve to further his cause.
Karlsson has seven points in two easy wins over Columbus this season and looks to help the Senators end a three-game road losing streak Saturday night.
He's a leading candidate for the Norris Trophy as the league's top defensemen with 62 points, including an NHL-best 51 assists. No other defenseman has more than 46 points.
Karlsson has 17 points in his last 12 games and 11 in his last seven. He had the second four-assist performance of his career in last Saturday's 6-1 rout of Toronto.
The previous one came in a 7-3 win over Columbus (22-28-6) on Oct. 14. He then had two goals and an assist in a 3-0 home win over the Blue Jackets on Nov. 19 in which Craig Anderson made 25 saves.
Karlsson has 15 points in 10 career games against Columbus, including nine in Ottawa's four-game road win streak in this series. The seven goals allowed by the Blue Jackets in October are the most they have yielded at home.
Ottawa (25-25-6) likely can't afford anything less than a victory after falling to 3-7-0 in its last 10 overall after Thursday's 4-3 home defeat to Colorado. The Senators have the fourth-worst record in the Eastern Conference, although they remain within striking distance of a playoff spot.
"These are points that we need," winger Chris Neil said. "We still believe in here, we still believe that we can get to where we need to be to make the playoffs but you gotta win games to do that."
The Senators failed to battle back from a three-goal deficit in the second period after the Avalanche scored the game's first three goals on the power play. Special teams have been a problem all season for Ottawa, which is at minus-16 in power-play goal differential for the league's second-worst mark.
"I thought we were real good 5-on-5," coach David Cameron said. "I thought we were the better team today, we were a little quicker, dug ourselves a hole and stayed with it and fell short."
Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf each had two assists, with Phaneuf making his home debut after being acquired from Toronto on Tuesday.
The Senators are last in the NHL in average shot differential at minus-4.6.
The lowly Blue Jackets have played four straight one-goal games, winning for the third time Thursday, 4-3 in a shootout over Anaheim. Former Senators winger Nick Foligno had two assists.
''This is a group of guys I want to be a difference maker for and lead them and playing the right way,'' Foligno said. ''Sometimes it just doesn't go your way, but it's the little things that you can do consistently to get you back to playing the right way.''
Brandon Saad ended a four-game goal drought with his team-high 20th and William Karlsson scored his third goal in as many games.
Rookie Joonas Korpisalo has made eight straight starts, going 5-1-2 with a 2.16 goals-against average. He has never faced the Senators.