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Coyotes-Senators Preview

GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (20-20-2) at Ottawa Senators (28-9-3).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Even though they remain one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa Senators are in a position they have not faced this season.

Ottawa will try to avoid losing three straight for the first time this season when they meet the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Senators, who own the league's best home record, have won three straight from the Coyotes at the Corel Center, outscoring them 13-3.

Ottawa returns home after a 1-3 road trip capped by a 4-1 loss Saturday to the Montreal Canadiens. Backup goaltender Ray Emery stopped only seven of 11 shots through one period before giving way to Dominik Hasek.

Steve Martins scored the only goal for Ottawa, which was outscored 16-6 in its the three losses. The Senators also were shut out on the power play for the fourth straight game, going 0-for-24 in that span.

Ottawa's recent offensive woes can be attributed to injuries to two of its top three scorers in Daniel Alfredsson (cracked rib) and Jason Spezza (pulled chest muscle).

"You always have a setback when a quality player is not available to lead your team," said Senators coach Bryan Murray Monday. "It forces another player to play against the best of the other team. It appeared on our road trip that we did not cope as much as we wanted to cope. ... We have some pretty good character guys. When you go through cycles like this, I think it benefits you."

Alfredsson and Spezza practiced Monday, and while the exact date of their return is uncertain, both said they're improving and could return to the lineup this week.

"It feels pretty good and every day it gets better," said Alfredsson, who has missed four games. "There's not much pain to be honest. ... I feel fresh and ready to go."

Spezza has missed eight games and said he may play in this one.

Phoenix comes in having lost three in a row and eight of 12 including a 5-2 setback Sunday to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Shane Doan and Ladislav Nagy scored the Coyotes, who outshot the Blue Jackets 34-15 but gave up three power-play goals to Columbus defenseman Bryan Berard.

"Right now we're not getting a whole lot out of anybody," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We're just not getting the job done."

Phoenix has been outscored 14-4 and is just 2-for-22 on the power play.

"For us to come out and not find a way to win it is very disappointing," Doan said.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 9): Coyotes - 42 points, 4th place, 16 PB, Pacific Division. Senators - 59 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Nagy and Mike Comrie, 14 goals; Nagy, 32 assists and 46 points; Sean O'Donnell, 75 PIM. Senators - Dany Heatley, 26 goals and 56 points; Spezza, 35 assists; Zdeno Chara, 100 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 9): Coyotes - Power play: 18.3 percent (51 for 279), 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.9 percent (207 for 259), 26th. Senators - Power play: 21.3 percent (54 for 254), 4th. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent (225 for 266), 7th.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (16-12-0, 2 SO, 2.68 GAA); Brian Boucher (2-3-0, 3.61). Senators - Hasek (20-6-2, 3, 2.04); Emery (8-3-1, 1, 3.07).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Senators, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 29, 2004; Senators, 4-1. At Glendale, Ariz., Spezza scored twice and Alfredsson recorded a goal and an assist for Ottawa. Shane Doan had the Coyotes' goal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 9-11-1 on the road; Senators - 16-3-0 at home.

Associated Press
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