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Senators aim to rebound against Canadiens

by Arpon Basu

SENATORS (13-8-5) at CANADIENS (17-5-4)


Last 10: Ottawa 5-2-3; Montreal 6-1-3

Season series: This is the fourth and final meeting between these Northeast Division rivals. Ottawa can clinch the season series with a win, having won the first encounter 5-1 on Jan. 30 and the last one 2-1 in a shootout Feb. 25. The Canadiens won their lone home game 2-1 on Feb. 3.

Big story: After valiantly weathering the storm of debilitating injuries for so long, the Senators arrive in Montreal struggling with one win in their last six games. They remain comfortably in a playoff spot, but another loss could make that position more tenuous.

Team Scope:

Senators: All the talk in Ottawa on Tuesday – and around the National Hockey League for that matter – centered on the failed shootout attempt of Kaspars Daugavins in Monday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, but that masked what remains a far bigger issue for the Senators. In the absence of top center Jason Spezza and top defenseman Erik Karlsson, the Senators have had a lot of trouble putting pucks in the net, and it is something that will need to change if they hope to get back on the winning track.

Over their last six games the Senators have allowed two goals or fewer five times, but won just one of those games. Ottawa has scored 13 goals in the last six games, which is understandable with the current injury woes, but they will need some more production from captain Daniel Alfredsson and center Kyle Turris. Alfredsson has a goal and an assist in his last eight games, and Turris snapped a 21-game goalless drought by scoring in that loss to the Bruins on Monday.

The return of Guillaume Latendresse from whiplash against Boston may help remedy the offensive woes, but there’s a lot of slack that needs to be picked up.

Canadiens: The Canadiens, on the other hand, are having very little trouble scoring goals as they seek their fourth straight win. Coming off a very successful 4-1-0 road trip, Montreal has scored at least four goals in six of its last seven games.

When the Canadiens were rolling out to a 12-4-2 start, there were some question marks surrounding that strong start, namely that they had played 12 of their first 18 games at home and had been largely spared of any injuries. Since then, the Canadiens have played seven of their last eight on the road and have lost forwards Rene Bourque and Brandon Prust and defenseman Raphael Diaz to injuries, yet the team continues humming along at the same pace.

“It’s good for the confidence,” coach Michel Therrien said Tuesday. “We had a very demanding road trip. We played six games in nine days with a lot of travel, and we were still capable of playing our game, trying to dictate the game, we accomplished that. So for sure, it’s good for the confidence. But honestly, and I know it’s a cliché, but we’re taking it one game at a time. We’re living in the moment right now.”

Who's hot: For the Senators, defenseman Sergei Gonchar has point in four straight games and Chris Phillips has points in his last three. Zack Smith has two goals and an assist in his last three games. … For the Canadiens, captain Brian Gionta has six goals and two assists in his last seven games, and his center Tomas Plekanec has three goals and two assists in his last five. Defenseman P.K. Subban has three goals and seven assists in his last seven games, and he has been in on each of the last seven power play goals the Canadiens have scored.

Injury report: The Senators are without Karlsson, Spezza, goaltender Craig Anderson, left wing Dave Dziurzynski, defenseman Mike Lundin, who are all on injured reserve. Left wing Milan Michalek will also miss the game with a recurring knee injury. … The Canadiens are missing Diaz and Bourque, both out with concussions, and Prust is out with a separated shoulder. Center Petteri Nokelainen (lower body) still has not played this season.

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