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Penguins shoot for fifth straight as Sens visit

by Brian Hunter

SENATORS (10-11-1) at PENGUINS (13-8-2)


Last 10: Ottawa 5-5-0; Pittsburgh 7-2-1

Season Series: Second of four meetings this season. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Mark Letestu each had a goal and an assist in Pittsburgh's 5-2 win over Ottawa on Oct. 18.

Big Story: The goaltending controversy which appeared to be brewing in Pittsburgh during the month of October has subsided with Marc-Andre Fleury once again resembling the player who led the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup Finals and a title in 2009. Fleury is coming off his first shutout of the season and has given up just seven goals in winning his last four starts.

Team Scope:

Senators: After giving up 23 goals during a stretch in which it lost four of five, Ottawa has done a better job keeping the puck out of its own net in the last two games, allowing only two goals in each. While that was good enough for a win over Los Angeles, it didnít do in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Dallas. Ryan Shannon's goal late in the second period produced a 1-1 tie heading into the third, but the Stars' Trevor Daley beat Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire at the 1:13 mark for the winner.

"It was not a very exciting game at all," Senators forward Mike Fisher said. "(Leclaire) kept us in for a lot of the game and made some big saves and we didn't generate a lot as far as quality chances and when we did (Stars goalie Andrew) Raycroft was there. We just didn't seem to have any spark or jump that we needed."

Penguins: This is the start of a brief, post-Thanksgiving homestand that features matinee appearances by Ottawa and Calgary in a 24-hour span. Pittsburgh will attempt to build on its four-game winning streak and continue its pursuit of Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead. Fleury stopped all 30 shots he faced against Buffalo on Wednesday and made a first-period goal by Pascal Dupuis stand up as the Penguins won 1-0 over the Sabres.

"I'm going to lose again [sometime]," Fleury told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's going to happen. But up in the head, this feels good.

"I feel more relaxed. I'm having more fun playing, practicing. Everything is back to normal, I guess."

Who's Hot: Leclaire has stopped 52 of 56 shots over his last two starts for the Senators, a .929 save percentage. Ö Crosby's assist on Dupuis' goal Wednesday extended his points streak to 10 games, during which he has 9 goals and 12 assists. Fleury is 6-0-1 over his last seven starts for the Penguins.

Injury Report: Pittsburgh forward Jordan Staal has yet to play this season, first due to foot surgery and more recently as he recovers from a broken hand.

Stat Pack: Veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who left Pittsburgh over the summer to sign with Ottawa, is tied for second on the Senators in scoring with 14 points. Ö Kris Letang of the Penguins has 19 points, fourth among NHL defensemen. Letang's career high is 33 points, recorded during the 2008-09 season.

Puck Drop: Gonchar, who had an assist but was a minus-3 in his first game back at Mellon Arena, missed practice on Thursday, reportedly for "maintenance" reasons. He'll be in the lineup Friday, as will Erik Karlsson, who hasn't played the last two games after a three-game stretch in which he was a minus-5 and took five minor penalties.

"We need Erik Karlsson to go back into the lineup and help us out," coach Cory Clouston told the Ottawa Sun. "When we were winning we were getting goals and point production from our back end."


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