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Habs come out of break hoping to topple Senators

by Brian Hunter
CANADIENS (13-16-7) at SENATORS (17-14-5)


Last 10:
Montreal 3-5-2; Ottawa 5-3-2

Season Series:
Second of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. Erik Cole and Andrei Kostitsyn scored three minutes part in the second period and Carey Price stopped 33 shots to lead Montreal to a 2-1 win in Ottawa on Nov. 4. Zack Smith had a shorthanded goal in the third for the Senators.

Big Story:
Montreal resumes a six-game road trip that was fruitless over the first half, as the Canadiens extended their losing streak to four games since interim coach Randy Cunneyworth took over, and five games overall. They enter Tuesday last in the division, but only six points out of a playoff spot.

"We have to remember that it's our goal to make the playoffs. We're never going to get there doing things individually. We'll have no chance," Price said. "We have to be able to count on each and every guy in this room. We have to make this push together -- it's just that simple."

Team Scope:

There isn't anywhere for Montreal to go but up after getting outscored 17-6 over Cunneyworth's first four games behind the bench, including a 4-0 loss in Winnipeg on Thursday in the Canadiens' finale before the holiday break. The blanking came one night after a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Chicago. Defenseman Josh Gorges indicated the players might be gripping their sticks a bit too tight at the moment.

"I think when you're in the position that we're in and you get down by a goal, a little bit of panic sets in and I think that's exactly what happened tonight," Gorges said following the loss to the Jets. "Everyone's scared to be the guy that’s going to make the next mistake and cost the team the game.

"We're going to have to take this break and get away from hockey, get away from the frustration and come back when the break is over with a new sense of life; a new sense of rejuvenation and play like it's a brand new season."

The best post-Christmas present for Ottawa would be the return this week of leading goal scorer Milan Michalek, who was skating last week and seemed to think his return from a concussion could come before the new year, possibly as early as Tuesday. The Senators have survived without Michalek and his 19 goals, going 3-1-1 in his absence, but will need his scoring touch heading down the stretch as they aim to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. In their most recent game they dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Hurricanes.

"We didn't execute as well as we wanted, but I thought Craig Anderson was outstanding," forward Nick Foligno said in the Ottawa Citizen after the goalie's 36-save performance. "Up to this point we've played some really good hockey. We can't hang our heads. We knew this was going to be a tough one."

Who's Hot:
Senators forward Kyle Turris has picked up an assist in each of his first three games since being acquired from the Coyotes, while compiling a plus-3 rating. Anderson is 2-0-1 over his last three starts with a .938 save percentage.

Injury Report:
Montreal entered the holiday break with forwards Brian Gionta (lower body) and Scott Gomez (groin) and defenseman Andrei Markov (knee) still on injured reserve. … Ottawa could activate Michalek this week, but the news on forward Peter Regin (shoulder) is that he is out indefinitely. Forward Jesse Winchester also has a concussion and is day-to-day.

Stat Pack:
Gorges played in his 400th NHL game on Thursday (304 for the Canadiens). He has 10 goals, 69 points and a plus-18 rating for his career. … Senators defenseman Filip Kuba scored the only goal in Friday's loss, and it was his 300th career point (66 goals).

Puck Drop:
With the absences of Michalek and Regin, Ottawa recalled forward Mike Hoffman to make his NHL debut against Carolina, and the fifth-round pick in 2009 played a little over nine minutes in the contest before he was returned to the AHL the following day.

"I was going home for Christmas holidays, but I'd much rather be here," Hoffman said prior to the game. "I got the call to turn around, pick up my gear and head up to Ottawa."
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