MONTREAL -- The Ottawa Senators have a long road ahead if they hope to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first step on that journey comes Saturday at Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Senators are 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with 16 games to play, and have one win in their past four (1-2-1).
"If we can have a full team effort, it will sort itself out," said Senators goaltender Robin Lehner, who will start in place of the injured Craig Anderson. "We've got to have some desperation. We can't be laid back."
Anderson was injured during a 4-3 overtime loss at home to the Nashville Predators on Monday. He took part in the morning skate and coach Paul MacLean said it was possible he would play Sunday at home against the Colorado Avalanche.
Forward Clarke MacArthur will return to the Senators lineup, allowing MacLean to ice three lines that can score. MacArthur was injured during the Senators debut of right wing Ales Hemsky, who was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the NHL Trade Deadline, so this will be the first full game where MacLean will have all his forwards available.
MacArthur will go back to his spot at left wing on a line with Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan, which has been the engine for Ottawa's offense all season.
"I guess this is the first time we've had this lineup together so that gets us a little bit excited about the speed and the skill we'll be able to play with," MacLean said. "We're looking forward to seeing that."
Offense has not been the Senators' problem this season. Defense, on the other hand …
Ottawa has allowed 29 goals going 2-4-1 in its past seven games, looking nothing like the team that finished second in the NHL last season in goals allowed. The Senators ranked 28th in the League in goals allowed per game entering action Saturday.
"We were a little bit of an underdog team [last season] and we played very simple; we got the puck deep and we got the puck back and we shot the puck," Lehner said. "The main thing was we didn't take any chances in the neutral zone, especially at our blue line. We didn't open up that much. This year, we play in the offensive zone a lot and we take a lot of risks in the neutral zone. It's a lot of odd-man rushes and our team gets a lot more spread out."
If there is one team the Senators might be able to turn it around against, it would be the Canadiens. Ottawa defeated Montreal five straight times before losing 5-4 in overtime at home on Jan. 16, a game when the Senators dominated the Canadiens but were stymied by 40 saves from goaltender Carey Price.
Price will be back in the Canadiens net after he missed eight games with a lower-body injury he aggravated at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Canadiens will have a more balanced look up front in the hopes of creating more offense. With new acquisition Thomas Vanek moving to the top line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, Daniel Briere takes Vanek's former spot on the left of Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta, and Brendan Gallagher moves off the top line to play with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk, a combination that had a lot of success early in the season.
Here are the projected lineups for the Senators and Canadiens:
Clarke MacArthur – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Milan Michalek – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Erik Condra – Mika Zibanejad – Mike Hoffman
Colin Greening – Zack Smith – Chris Neil
Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips – Cody Ceci
Jared Cowen – Eric Gryba
Scratched: Matt Kassian, Patrick Wiercioch
Injured: Craig Anderson (upper body)
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Thomas Vanek
Daniel Briere - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Alex Galchenyuk - Lars Eller - Brendan Gallagher
Travis Moen - Brandon Prust - Dale Weise
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Francis Bouillon - P.K. Subban
Douglas Murray - Mike Weaver
Scratched: Dustin Tokarski, Jarred Tinordi, Rene Bourque, Ryan White, George Parros, Michael Bournival
Injured: Josh Gorges (hand)