SENATORS (33-23-8) at BRUINS (37-20-3)
TV: SNET-E, TVA, NESN (HD)
Ottawa 6-3-1; Boston 5-4-1
Fifth of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. Boston has dominated to this point, winning the first four matchups over Ottawa by a combined 19-11 score, extending their overall streak in this series to eight straight. Patrice Bergeron
of the Bruins leads all scorers with 4 goals and 6 points, while Daniel Alfredsson
paces the Senators with 3 goals and 5 points.
The teams are meeting for the second time in four days -- it's the back end of a home-and-home for Bruins but not the Senators, who rebounded from their loss to the B's on Saturday by beating the Islanders on Sunday. Ottawa is only three points back of Boston in the Northeast but has played four additional games, so if the Senators are still entertaining hopes of winning the division this is an absolute must-win.
The acquisition of Ben Bishop over the weekend along with Robin Lehner
's strong performance Sunday as an emergency call-up sparks the question of who will get the bulk of the work in net until Craig Anderson
is able to return from injury. Bishop will at least start out with AHL Binghamton. Veteran backup Alex Auld
is also in the equation. The 20-year-old Lehner made his second start of the season and the 10th appearance of his young career against the Islanders and turned aside 28 shots in a 5-2 victory. Erik Karlsson
assisted on power-play goals by Milan Michalek
and Jason Spezza
to get the offense going.
"It was a big win all around," Spezza said. "It was a hard fought game and Robin did a good job of keeping us in that first period. It wasn't the best first 10 minutes we've had and he kept it 1-0 and gave us a chance to hang around in the game."
This is the start of a three-game homestand for Boston, which salvaged a six-game road trip with Saturday's 5-3 win in Ottawa. The Bruins entered in a 1-2-1 funk, but built a 4-1 lead by the middle of the third period thanks to a goal and an assist from Bergeron and Carter Camper
's first NHL goal. The Senators cut the lead down to one as Alfredsson scored twice 1:37 apart, but Bergeron's second of the night into an empty net helped Tim Thomas
(27 saves) hold off the late charge.
"I thought we played pretty well," Bergeron said in the Boston Herald. "It's been a tough road trip for us. To finish off with a win is always a good thing.
"It's a huge win. I thought we played real well. It was a great effort by everyone. We were using our speed. They're a good team. We were aware of the standings before the game and we knew it was a huge game."
Spezza has 8 goals and 12 assists during a nine-game points streak for the Senators. Karlsson has 6 goals and 11 assists during a seven-game points streak. Michalek has 3 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. … Brad Marchand
has 3 goals in as many games for the Bruins. Zdeno Chara
has 1 goal and 2 assists in the last two games.
Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk
absorbed a heavy hit in Saturday's game and is day-to-day. Forward Rich Peverley
(sprained MCL) is out 4-6 weeks. Forward Nathan Horton
(concussion) is on injured reserve. … Anderson (lacerated finger) is out indefinitely for Ottawa.
Karlsson's pair of assists Sunday gave him 64 points for the season, a single-season franchise record by a defenseman. Norm Maciver had 63 during the team's inaugural 1992-93 season. … Bergeron fired nine shots on goal for the Bruins on Saturday, matching his output for the first five games of the road trip.
Lehner, a second-round pick by Ottawa in 2009, had been looked at as the franchise's goalie of the future, but now he has some competition in the 6-foot-7 Bishop, who at 25 has already accomplished about all he can at the AHL level and will soon be looking to secure a permanent position on the big club. Lehner isn't showing any outward signs of being bothered by the deal, though.
"It's great -- they've been talking about getting some more depth at the position," he said. "It's just another guy; another player. It's competition, you know? Everyone competes -- it's nothing different for the players. Every year new guys come in, and everyone's fighting for spots. I'm just doing my best to help the team right now. I'm not thinking about the future. I'm just enjoying the ride right now."