SENATORS (18-18-7) at CANADIENS (24-14-4)
TV: CBC, RDS
Last 10: Ottawa 5-4-1; Montreal 5-4-1
Season series: This is the second of five games between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, with the Senators winning the first one 4-1 on Nov. 7 in Ottawa. The two teams will play again Jan. 16 in Ottawa.
Big story: The Senators will be looking to establish a new season high with their fourth straight win when they face the Canadiens in Montreal for the first time since clinching the heated first-round series between the teams in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ottawa is experiencing perhaps its biggest roll of the season, with three straight victories and four wins in five games, with those four wins coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets.
The recent run has allowed the Senators to climb back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 18, when they were 8-8-4.
Senators: What's made the recent run more impressive is it has come without the help of captain Jason Spezza, who has missed each of the three straight wins with a hip flexor injury.
Spezza skated at Senators practice Friday, but he did so as an extra forward, and he won't be back against the Canadiens. Mika Zibanejad has been playing well at center on a line with Cory Conacher and Milan Michalek. Spezza coming back would take up a spot at center, which could force Zibanejad back to the wing.
MacLean has liked what he's seen from the Zibanejad line over the past few games.
"I think they've played with speed, they've played positionally very sound," MacLean told reporters after practice. "Mika's been very good skating in the middle of the rink and showing patience in the middle of the rink, just pivoting the puck, and they've attacked the net and gotten to the net. A big part of the reason they're having success is that they have the puck and they're putting it on the net."
Craig Anderson will get his fourth straight start in goal for the Senators and is seeking his fifth straight win.
Canadiens: The Canadiens played with fire yet again in closing out a season-high six-game road trip against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, but this time they didn't get burned.
After allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to erase a 3-0 deficit in the third period to win 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday, the Canadiens once again had a 4-2 third period lead in Dallas before allowing the Stars to tie it. But Lars Eller scored to re-establish Montreal's lead and Max Pacioretty iced it with his second goal of the game, an empty-netter off a P.K. Subban feed that allowed both players to finish the night with four points.
The win allowed the Canadiens to finish the road trip with a 3-2-1 record, returning to Bell Centre to see their fans again for the first time since Dec. 17.
"When you can get points like this on this type of road trip, it could pay off down the road. We know these types of road trips aren't easy for anybody," Subban told the Canadiens website following the win in Dallas. "We're happy that we salvaged as many points as we could have. I thought with our performance today, we have a better taste in our mouth going back to Montreal. I'm just happy that we got the win for our team."
Who's hot: For the Senators, Conacher has two goals and four assists in his past five games, Zibanejad has two goals and an assist in his past two and Kyle Turris has points in three straight and in five of his past six. … For the Canadiens, in their past two games Pacioretty has four goals and two assists, Subban has two goals and four assists and David Desharnais has a goal and four assists.
Injury report: The Senators will be without Chris Neil (lower body), who will miss his second game. …The Canadiens are missing right wing George Parros (concussion) and defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder).