CANADIENS (4-5-2) at SENATORS (7-6-0)
TV: RDS (HD), TSN-HABS, SNET-E
Last 10: Montreal 4-4-2; Ottawa 6-4-0
Season Series: First of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. The Canadiens went 4-1-1 against the Senators last season, with Brian Gionta's 5 goals pacing all scorers and Andrei Kostitsyn adding 4 goals in the series. Ottawa did win the most recent meeting on April 7 behind 27 saves from Craig Anderson, who also beat Montreal last season while with Colorado.
Big Story: The Senators still hold a four-point lead over the Canadiens heading into Friday, but optimism is finally beginning to peak its head through in Montreal after the franchise's worst start in 70 years. Three straight wins -- including a home-and-home sweep of the hated Bruins -- have gone a long way in calming the Habs' faithful, and their team can get back to .500 by collecting the two points at stake in this one.
Canadiens: The offense has started to come around, as Montreal has 11 goals on its current run, while goaltender Carey Price has yielded just four in beating Philadelphia once and Boston twice. After the Canadiens edged out the Bruins 2-1 at TD Garden last Thursday, they returned to the Bell Centre on Saturday and kept up the momentum by getting goals from Gionta and Lars Eller 76 seconds apart in the first period and going on to a 4-2 win, their second in a row at home following an 0-3-2 start.
"I think our guys are pretty confident again," Price said. "I think that's all it took was just a couple of wins. Now the guys are all excited to go to the rink again. When you're losing, it's not fun. Everything's gloom and doom so winning solves everything."
Senators: The six-game winning streak that lifted Ottawa all the way up to second place in the Northeast behind front-running Toronto was snapped Tuesday by the same Boston club that had just been swept in a home-and-home by Montreal. In desperate need of a win to halt their early slide, the Bruins overcame a pair of one-goal leads by the Senators to go in front in the second period. Jared Cowen drew them even 5:04 in the third, but the B's got a pair of quick goals after that and handed the Senators a 5-3 defeat.
"I think the Stanley Cup champions showed up and they decided they wanted to play. They were determined to win, and the solutions that we had for them weren't working," coach Paul MacLean said. "They were quicker than us. They were on the puck better than we were. They made us play in our end way, way too much. When those things happen, bad things happen."
Who's Hot: Tomas Plekanec (2-2-4) and David Desharnais (1-3-4) have three-game points streaks going for the Canadiens. Price has a .950 save percentage over his last three games. … Nick Foligno had a hand in all three Senators goals Tuesday, scoring once and setting up Cowen and Stephane Da Costa.
Injury Report: Sidelined for Montreal are forwards Scott Gomez (upper body) and Ryan White (sports hernia) and defensemen Chris Campoli (leg) and Andrei Markov (knee). … Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson is currently out with a concussion, while goalie Alex Auld (undisclosed), defenseman Matt Carkner (knee) and forward Peter Regin (shoulder) will also miss this game.
Stat Pack: Eller has 10 goals in 93 career games for the Canadiens and Blues, and three have come against the Bruins. … Foligno's 3-point game for the Senators was a career high, and Da Costa added an assist against the Bruins for his first career multi-point effort.
Puck Drop: If Ottawa wants to remain on the right side of .500 it needs to tighten up its game defensively and between the pipes. The team has been winning on the strength on its offense, which entered Thursday's action tied for sixth in the NHL at an even 3 goals per game, while it was allowing 3.85 goals against, by far the most in the League (29th-ranked Winnipeg was giving up 3.46 goals per game).