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Panthers visit Ottawa to complete Eastern Canada trip

by Mike G. Morreale

PANTHERS (17-20-7) at SENATORS (22-18-4)

Last 10 -- Panthers (4-6-0); Senators (5-5-0)

Season series -- This is the second of four meetings. The road team has won four of the last five matchups, including the first game this season when Nick Foligno scored off a Florida player's skate in the second and Jarkko Ruutu connected 38 seconds later to give the Senators a 4-3 victory at the BankAtlantic Center on Oct. 28.

Big story -- After seemingly getting back on track with a 6-2 home win over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, the Panthers lost to the Maple Leafs 3-2 in Toronto on Tuesday, then were shut out 2-0 at Montreal on Thursday. The Senators are coming off a lackluster 5-2 road loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

Team Scope

Panthers -- After their fifth loss in seven games, Panthers coach Peter DeBoer was in a sour mood on Wednesday morning when he put his team through a physical workout focusing on puck battles in the corners. DeBoer had players bunched in groups of three with a puck thrown into the corner and they had to fight for control of the disk. DeBoer was happy with the way his team reacted in a 2-0 setback to Montreal on Thursday -- but the Panthers couldn't beat Jaroslav Halak, who made 38 saves.

"We were not prepared to physically get involved (against the Maple Leafs), and our practice today was designed to address our competitiveness level," said DeBoer. "We gave up to many chances, did not win puck battles and that ultimately cost us the game."

Senators -- The Senators are entering a key stretch; five of their next six games are on the road -- where they're a lackluster 6-11-1. This is the Senators' 26th home game -- the most of any team in the NHL. While the offense has been relatively productive in the absence of injured forwards Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, goalies Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott have struggled. Leclaire's .893 save percentage ranks 46th in the NHL and his 2.94 goals-against average is 36th. Elliott's .898 (42nd) and 2.86 (34th) aren't much better.

Who's hot -- Panthers' wing Nathan Horton has five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in the past four games. Horton leads Florida in scoring with 42 points this season. … Ottawa's Alex Kovalev has seven points (4 goals) in the last three games.

Injury report -- Ottawa is still without Spezza (right knee, out until early March) and Alfredsson (left shoulder, out until late January). … For the Panthers, forwards Kenndal McArdle (shoulder) and David Booth (concussion) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (knee) are out.

Stat pack -- The Panthers have scored 120 goals entering Saturday's clash with the Senators -- 14th in the League. The top line of Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton and Michael Frolik has accounted for 44 of those goals.

Puck drop -- CBC's Hockey Night in Canada has added this matchup to its broadcast schedule as both teams are in desperate need of the victory -- the Senators are sixth in the Eastern Conference with 48 points and the Panthers 13th with 41.

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