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Ottawa Senators vs. Montr?al Canadiens @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Ottawa Senators (39-22-9-6) at Montreal Canadiens (40-27-7-3).

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

If the Ottawa Senators are serious about winning the Northeast Division title, they can ill afford to continue playing this poorly.

The Senators will try to bounce back from a loss to a division rival when they take on another, the Montreal Canadiens.

Ottawa began a season-high six-game road trip with a 4-2 defeat to Northeast-leading Boston on Tuesday.

The Senators, who are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, have won just four of their last 11 (4-6-0-1) and are four points behind Boston in the division with six games to play.

The top four seeds in each conference are guaranteed home-ice in the first round of the playoffs.

"We're in the desperate part of our season," Ottawa defenseman Todd Simpson said. "We have to put more energy in our game."

Ottawa has lost three straight and seven of its last nine on the road, including a 4-2 defeat to Montreal in its last trip to the Bell Centre on Feb. 24.

The Senators' schedule does not get any easier as they face Toronto on Saturday before visiting the top two teams in the East, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

Martin Havlat scored his 29th goal and added an assist in Tuesday's loss.

Montreal, which has lost just three of its last 15 games (11-2-1-1), still needs one point to clinch a playoff spot after falling 2-1 to Buffalo on Wednesday.

The Canadiens are in seventh place in the East, two points behind defending champion New Jersey with five games remaining.

Michael Ryder scored Montreal's lone goal Wednesday. The right wing is the NHL's rookie scoring leader with 60 points, and is second on the Canadiens in both points and goals (24).

"I think we were a little sluggish," said Ryder, who has nine points in his last seven games. "If we would have pushed a little more early in the game it would have been a different story."

Mathieu Garon made 31 saves in his fourth start in eight games.

Montreal was without defenseman Patrice Brisebois (groin) and center Joe Juneau (flu) on Wednesday.

STANDINGS: Senators - 93 points, 3rd place, 4 PB, Northeast Division. Canadiens - 90 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Marian Hossa, 34 goals and 78 points; Daniel Alfredsson, 46 assists; Chris Neil, 173 PIM. Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 25 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 42 assists and 62 points; Darren Langdon, 135 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 23): Senators - Power play: 22 percent (78 for 354), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (269 for 322), 19th. Canadiens - Power play: 18.1 percent (54 for 298), 8th. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (235 for 287), 24th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Patrick Lalime (24-23-7, 4 SO, 2.34 GAA); Martin Prusek (14-5-2, 3, 1.91). Canadiens - Jose Theodore (32-24-5, 6, 2.17); Garon (8-6-2, 0, 2.32).

SEASON SERIES: Senators, 3-2.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 24; Canadiens, 4-2. At Montreal, Ryder scored two power-play goals for the Canadiens.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 16-15-4-1 on the road; Canadiens - 22-11-4-1 at home.

Associated Press
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