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Seeking to end struggles, Senators, Thrashers meet

by Mike G. Morreale
SENATORS (22-20-4) at THRASHERS (19-19-6)

Last 10 -- Ottawa 4-6-0; Atlanta 1-6-3

Season series -- This is the third of four meetings between the clubs this season -- the final game will be played March 18. The teams have split two games at Scotiabank Place and will play the remaining two at Philips Arena. The Senators won 4-2 on Oct. 10 and the Thrashers scored a 3-1 victory on Oct. 31. In the most recent meeting, Rich Peverley had a goal and one assist and Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 50 saves to lead the visitors.

Big Story -- Both teams are searching for some consistency. The Thrashers, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games, dropped an 8-1 decision to the Capitals just two days after snapping a nine-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers. The Senators have lost four straight, including a 4-1 setback to Carolina on Sunday when Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward stopped 31 shots.

Team Scope:

Senators --
The club is in the midst of a five-game road trip that concludes Monday in Boston. The team is without top-line forwards Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson and will likely have center Jesse Winchester and defenseman Filip Kuba sidelined as well. The offense has produced just four goals in four games and goalies Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire have struggled mightily.

There is good news -- head coach Cory Clouston said Alfredsson could return as early as Saturday. It was initially thought the team's captain would be sidelined until the end of January, but he's been skating on his own and, according to Clouston, is on schedule to return to the lineup when the Sens face the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

Thrashers -- The Thrashers, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games, are experiencing goaltending issues of their own. Consider the fact the club held a 22-7 advantage in shots over the Capitals early in the second period on Saturday but still managed to lose the game, 8-1. They would outshoot the Capitals 39-37 for the game. The team will be playing its third of four consecutive games at Philips Arena, where it is 7-8-5 this season.

Who's Hot -- Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk has points in 14 of the last 19 games (10 goals, 12 assists). He's tied for third in the NHL with nine power-play goals and tied for fifth overall in goals (25) with Dany Heatley of San Jose.

Injury Report --
The Senators are without forwards Alfredsson (separated left shoulder), Spezza (right knee), Michalek (upper body) and Winchester (right kneecap). Kuba (upper body) is day-to-day. … Atlanta defenseman Mark Popovic (fractured foot) has been out since Dec. 9.

Stat Pack -- The Senators' power play, which went 0-for-2 in a loss to Carolina on Sunday, is last in the League with a 14.2 success rate. The recent injuries to several key players have certainly played a big part in the recent power-play slump.

"Obviously, our power play is a big concern," Clouston said. "Somehow we just have to manufacture some offense."

Puck Drop --
Despite the fact the Thrashers are 11th in the Eastern Conference, the team is tied for second in the League with Florida, Calgary and San Jose with six shorthanded goals. Forward Chris Thorburn leads the team with 2 shorthanded tallies.

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