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SENATORS (5-2-2) at PANTHERS (2-6-1)
Season series -- This is the first of four meetings. In 2008-09, the road team won three of the four matchups. Michael Frolik and Cory Stillman of Florida each scored a goal and 3 assists to lead all scorers in the series. Chris Kelly of Ottawa scored a series-leading 3 goals. In winning three games, the Panthers outscored the Senators 13-8.
Big story -- One team -- Ottawa -- is relatively healthy and probably welcoming back an injured defenseman tonight, while another team -- Florida -- is suddenly banged up with two key forwards lost in the previous contest.
Ottawa -- This is the first game in a two-game road trip through Florida. Previously, the Senators lost in overtime to Nashville and in a shootout to Boston in a two-game home stand.
The Senators are expected to welcome back offensive defenseman Filip Kuba for this contest. Kuba has not played since the season-opening game due to a lower-body injury. Coach Cory Clouston is hoping Kuba can spark one of the worst power plays in the League -- the Senators have scored only four times in 35 chances (11.4 percent, 29th out of 30 teams).
"I don't think it's about one guy playing on the power play," Kuba said. "It's the whole unit. I just want to play hockey and it's been tough sitting out and watching the game from the stands."
Clouston will be glad to have him back.
"He'll make a big improvement, just as far as poise, confidence and experience back there," Clouston said. "(Kuba) doesn't have a booming shot, but he's able to get the shot through for the most part. He's also very intelligent as far as reading (the play).
"Just to be able to calm things down back there ... I think he'll be important for that."
Florida -- This is the first home game for the Panthers following a two-game road trip through Pennsylvania that included a shootout loss against the Penguins and a loss against the Flyers.
The Panthers will be without forwards David Booth and Radek Dvorak, both of whom were injured against Philadelphia on Saturday. "(Booth's) never had a concussion before, and it's a unique injury," GM Randy Sexton told the Miami Herald. "There is a protocol you have to follow, and David will do that. We don't want the David Booth [type of] commitment to this in coming back. This is a process. If he's not feeling OK, 100 push-ups will not fix it. He has to follow the guidelines of our medical staff, and I believe he will."
Dvorak is out with a left leg injury. The Panthers have recalled left wing Kenndal McArdle and right wing Michal Repik from Rochester of the AHL.
If rookie defenseman Dmitry Kulikov plays tonight, it will be his 10th game, meaning this would count as the first year of his entry-level contract regardless of whether Florida sends him back to juniors later in the season. Kulikov, who has 3 assists and plays on the first power-play unit, turns 19 tomorrow.
Who's hot -- For the Senators, Jason Spezza has 7 assists in his last five games, Daniel Alfredsson has 2 goals and 6 assists in his last four games, Mike Fisher has 1 goal and 4 assists in his last three games, Milan Michalek has 6 goals in his last five games, and Nick Foligno has 2 goals and an assist in his last four games. For the Panthers, Steven Reinprecht has 4 goals in his last four games, and Stillman has 2 assists in his last two games.
Injury report -- Kuba is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury but is expected to return to action tonight. For the Panthers, left wing Nick Tarnasky (broken orbital bone) is on injured reserve, Booth is out with a concussion, and Dvorak is out with a leg injury.
Stat pack -- Linemates Spezza and Michalek have odd stats through nine games each. Spezza has no goals and 8 assists, and Michalek has 6 goals and no assists. They have both recorded a point on the same goal four times. "I want to get on the board, especially in big games like this," Spezza told the Ottawa Sun. "I've just got to keep plugging away. I've just got to be resilient. We've still got lots of hockey left."
Puck drop -- "It's so early in the season, but every time we've stepped on the ice, if we haven't won, we've given ourselves a chance to," Senators defenseman Chris Phillips told the Ottawa Sun. "We're getting lots of chances, we're getting shots, we're playing the game right, we're playing together. We're playing with intensity."
-- Rocky Bonanno, NHL.com