PITTSBURGH -- There will be a desperate team on the ice when the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday night. And it won't be the streaking Senators.
The Penguins, on top of the Eastern Conference standings only a month ago, have tumbled to eighth place while losing their last four, six of 10 and seven of 12. The Senators, by contrast, are 5-0-1 in their last six and 8-1-2 in their last 11, vaulting them into fifth place in the conference.
After rallying from two goals down to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 on Sunday, the Senators (22-15-6) should have plenty of momentum heading into their second trip to Pittsburgh this season. They'll need it, as they play 10 of their next 11 on the road, a stretch that includes only one home game before their arena plays host to the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 29.
"We've got to worry about what we can control, and that's how we prepare for our game," goaltender Craig Anderson said Tuesday. "Make them adjust to how we're playing, and obviously we're playing very good hockey right now and finding ways to win. We've got to continue with the same mentality we've been going on the last few games, and try to continue with that success."
That's what the Penguins (21-15-4) don't want to do -- continue with the same mentality they've had the last few games. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, upset with what he felt were unnecessary penalties, said there must be more accountability on the ice. Coach Dan Bylsma wants to avoid letdowns that he believes are occurring far too frequently.
The Penguins should get a boost from the surprise return of right wing James Neal, who was expected to be out weeks with what was initially diagnosed as a broken foot that occurred Saturday against the Devils. An MRI exam revealed he has only a badly bruised foot.
"We've got to get back on track and it starts tonight," Neal said. "I'm just happy I'm OK to play."
Forward Eric Tangradi, called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) for the third time this season, slides onto a line with Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy as Pittsburgh tries to avoid its first five-game losing streak since Dec. 27, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010.
Ottawa will have one lineup change, with defenseman Brian Lee replacing Matt Carkner as Chris Phillips' partner. Lee, who adds a speed element, sat out the last two games. Carkner had played five straight.
"We want to make sure we keep Brian Lee playing as well," coach Paul MacLean said. "The two are going to have to rotate depending on how we play."
Here are the likely lineups for the third of four games between the teams this season; they split the first two. Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist in both games for Pittsburgh.
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Erik Condra - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Bobby Butler
Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Brian Lee
Alex Auld will be the backup goalie.
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Eric Tangradi - Pascal Dupuis - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Richard Park - Matt Cooke
Arron Asham - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland
Brent Johnson, 8-2-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average against the Senators, will make his first start since he allowed five goals on 10 shots during the second period of a 6-4 loss in Ottawa on Dec. 16. Marc-Andre Fleury, who started the previous eight games, will go Wednesday night in Washington as the Penguins play back-to-back games for the second time in a week. They lost at home by identical 3-1 scores to the Rangers on Friday and the Devils on Saturday.