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Hurricanes-Senators Preview

GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (23-9-3) at Ottawa Senators (25-6-3).

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

Two of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference meet for the final time this season as the Ottawa Senators host the Carolina Hurricanes.

While the Senators lead the East with 53 points, the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes have 49 and are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for third in the conference. Two of Ottawa's three losses in its first 16 games came against Carolina before the Senators won the latest meeting, 5-3 on Nov. 22 in Raleigh, N.C.

The Senators have won back-to-back games for just the second time in December following Monday's 6-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Defenseman Wade Redden scored twice and had a career-high four points for Ottawa, which went 3-for-6 on the power play.

"When we're scoring lots of goals, as we were early in the year, it's not necessary for (the defense) to take chances," said Redden, who has three goals and six assists in five games since returning to the lineup Dec. 17 from a knee injury.

"It's always nice to be up there and trying to contribute."

Redden's return also has marked the re-emergence of Ottawa's power play. In those five games, the Senators have converted 41.2 percent (14-for-34) with the man advantage.

Ottawa has an NHL-best 30.8 percent efficiency at home (33-for-107), but has been limited to two power-play goals in 19 chances against Carolina this season.

The Hurricanes are trying to regroup after a 5-4 road loss in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, ending a five-game winning streak.

Carolina came back from three one-goal deficits, only to lose in the final minute of the extra period and have its lead atop the Southeast Division over Tampa reduced to eight points.

"We should have picked up the win ... there is no doubt about it," said goalie Martin Gerber, who made 36 saves. "We lost a point here (Monday). Especially in those games against them, we want to get all the points. We don't want to share anything with them."

Gerber has stopped 105 of 112 shots in three starts against the Senators this season and has a .934 save percentage in four lifetime starts against them.

Hurricanes center Eric Staal has five goals and four assists in a four-game points streak.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 27): Hurricanes - 49 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Senators - 53 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 26 goals and 51 points; Staal and Cory Stillman, 25 assists; Mike Commodore, 71 PIM. Senators - Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, 23 goals; Jason Spezza, 34 assists; Alfredsson, 52 points; Zdeno Chara, 88 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 27): Hurricanes - Power play: 18.9 percent (43 for 228), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.4 percent (158 for 199), 26th. Senators - Power play: 24.1 percent (52 for 216), 2nd. Penalty killing: 85.3 percent (192 for 225), 4th.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Gerber (17-6-2, 2 SO, 2.66 GAA); Cam Ward (6-3-1, 0, 4.05). Senators - Dominik Hasek (18-5-2, 3, 2.10); Ray Emery (7-1-1, 1, 2.19).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 22; Senators, 5-3. At Raleigh, N.C., Spezza snapped a 3-3 tie with 15:45 to play in the third period and was one of five Ottawa players to score a goal. Erik Cole had two assists for the Hurricanes, who rallied from deficits twice to tie the game.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 9-5-3 on the road; Senators - 14-3-0 at home.

Associated Press
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