SENATORS (16-19-5) at BLACKHAWKS (21-18-3)
TV: RDS, SNET-E (HD), CSN-CH (HD)
Last 10: Ottawa 4-3-3; Chicago 5-5-0
Season series: This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these teams. In their most recent matchup, Peter Regin recorded a goal and an assist, and Brian Elliott made 29 saves as the Senators defeated the Blackhawks 4-1 in Ottawa on Jan. 19, 2010.
Big story: Chicago won the final four of a five-game homestand last month, but since then the Blackhawks have dropped consecutive games at the United Center. That includes Wednesday's game against Dallas, the start of a four-game homestand. The Hawks are a pedestrian 12-11-0 at the UC this season, a major factor why if the playoffs started today they wouldn't make the cut.
Senators: With Ottawa 0-2-1 in its last three games and continuing to languish in the lower half of the Eastern Conference standings, GM Bryan Murray met with the coaches and players earlier this week to make it clear what the Senators have produced so far isn't good enough and he expects them to be better in the second half. The team reaches the official midway point after facing Chicago.
"(Murray) is confident in this group, but we have to be better," veteran defenseman Chris Phillips said. "We can't be sitting here waiting for somebody to make moves or make something happen. It's up to us to be better and take it upon ourselves to expect the most out of each and every guy to turn things around."
Blackhawks: Whenever it appears Chicago is about to put together the kind of streak that will vault it back among the Western Conference's elite, the Blackhawks are dealt another blow -- if it's not an injury to a key player, it's a slump like the current one that has seen them drop four of their last five overall. Facing the Pacific Division-leading Stars, a tie game midway through the third turned into a 4-2 loss when Mike Ribeiro scored his second power-play goal of the night and Steve Ott added an empty-netter.
"It's not going to change until we start doing the right things," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We weren't as good as we wanted to be the first half of the season at home."
Who's hot: Patrick Sharp has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last four games for the Blackhawks. Tomas Kopecky has 1 goal and 3 assists over the same span.
Injury report: Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire (lower body) and forward Jason Spezza (shoulder) are out indefinitely. … Toews returned sooner than expected from a shoulder injury and Chicago actually boasts a completely healthy roster for one of the few times this season.
Stat pack: Mike Brodeur, recalled to back up Elliott in the absence of Leclaire, made his season debut in relief during the Senators' 5-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday and stopped 12 of 14 shots. In three starts as an emergency call-up last season, Brodeur was 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .966 save percentage. … The Blackhawks fell to 28th in penalty killing after Wednesday's action, at 77.3 percent.
Puck drop: Cory Clouston got his job as Ottawa coach midway through a 2008-09 season that wasn't going according to plan. Under his guidance the Senators made it back to the playoffs last spring, but now Clouston could be worried about his own security if the team continues to struggle. However, he insists his mind is on only one thing: the task at hand.
"Our whole focus right now is trying to win a game in Chicago," Clouston said. "We're making sure we have good practices, we're talking to the players we need to talk and addressing the issues that we need to. Our whole focus is on the game in Chicago."