BRUINS (4-4-1) at SENATORS (5-2-1)
Season series --
The Northeast Division rivals meet for the first time this season -- in fact, it's the Bruins' first game within their own division. Boston won the first five of last season's six games before Ottawa's 3-2 home win on the last Tuesday of the season. The Bruins have won nine of the last 11 meetings since the start of 2008.
Big story --
Inconsistency has been the one constant with the Bruins this season -- they've alternated in a lose-one, win-one pattern since opening night. Their task got harder this week when No. 1 center Marc Savard
and top-six forward Milan Lucic
both went down with injuries that will keep them out for an extended period. So far, they've done a good job rising to the task -- Boston beat Nashville on Wednesday and got a point in a 4-3 shootout loss at Philadelphia on Thursday.
The Senators had won five out of six before Thursday's wild 6-5 overtime loss to Nashville. Ottawa trailed 3-0 entering the third period, forced overtime and capped a five-goal eruption when Chris Phillips
scored a shorthanded goal with 1.6 seconds left in regulation, but lost in OT.
"I think we showed character in the way we fought back," captain Daniel Alfredsson
said. "It's a little frustrating, but the way we found a way to get a point is very encouraging."
The Bruins ran away with the division title in 2008-09, but this season has been a struggle from the start -- and it's going to get tougher without two of their big guns.
"You lose some key players like Lucic and Savard … you end up having to face that challenge," coach Claude Julien said after the shootout loss to the Flyers. "But also, the fact that we haven't been able to play consecutive solid games. I think (Wednesday) from the second period on, we were much better, and (Thursday) we were pretty good throughout the whole game."
Thursday's shoot-'em-up with the Predators was a very out-of-character game for the Senators, who had allowed two goals or fewer in five of their first seven games.
But when you get a point on a night you trailed 3-0 entering the third period, it's a sign that your team is coming together.
"We just stuck with it and stuck with it," Phillips said. "We never got down or dejected about anything that was happening. We just kept pushing forward and believed in each other and our game plan. We knew if we did that, good things were going to happen and they finally came to us in the third."
Who's hot --
Newcomer Steve Begin, signed as a free agent this summer, has contributed goals in back-to-back games for the Bruins. … Despite allowing six goals on Thursday, newcomer Pascal Leclaire has stepped into the No. 1 goaltending job in Ottawa, going 4-2-1 in seven starts.
Injury report --
The Bruins will be without Savard (foot) and Lucic (broken finger) for an extended period, but hope to get fourth-liner Shawn Thornton
back after he missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury. Ottawa lists defenseman Filip Kuba
as day-to-day with a lower-body injury that's kept him out since Oct. 5.
Stat pack -- Tim Thomas
got the night off against Philadelphia, but expect him to be between the pipes at Scotiabank Place -- because he's owned the Senators. Thomas has won his last seven starts against the Senators, posting a 1.27 goals-against average. … The Bruins are 21-15 at Ottawa in games decided in regulation, but just 1-6 (with three ties) when the game goes beyond 60 minutes.
Puck drop --
If Boston's alternating cycle of wins and losses continues, the Bruins will go home with a victory. But this is not the same Ottawa team the B's dominated last season, and the Senators will be looking to send that message when they step on the ice at Scotiabank Place.
-- John Kreiser, NHL.com