GAME: Ottawa Senators (19-3-0) at Boston Bruins (8-13-5).
TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.
With the present looking so bleak, the Boston Bruins got rid of the player once thought to be their future.
Playing their first game since trading away captain Joe Thornton, the struggling Bruins take on the best team in the NHL when they host the Ottawa Senators.
Boston made a surprise, franchise-altering move Wednesday by dealing Thornton to San Jose for forwards Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau and defenseman Brad Stuart. The three newest Bruins, who are all under 30 years of age, are expected to play Thursday night.
"We felt we needed to shake up the team and sometimes you have to make some difficult decisions to better the team," Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell said in a statement. "We feel we received three players who can help us immediately."
Boston sits in last place in the Northeast Division, having lost three straight and nine of 10.
The 26-year-old Thornton, who signed a three-year, $20 million contract in August, was stunned by the news.
"I was blindsided," Thornton said in a conference call. "On the one hand it's disappointing, and on the other it's good to start over again. When you don't win, there's going to be changes.
"Obviously (the Bruins) believe in their coach and their general manager, and I'm next in line, so I've got to move on. ... I came back here to win, and we haven't been winning. Whose fault is that? I'm not sure, but I'm out of here, so it must be mine."
Thornton was leading the Bruins with 24 assists and 33 points. The three-time All-Star had at least 22 goals and 60 points in each of the last five seasons, and led the team with 23 goals and 50 assists in 2003-04.
Sturm has six goals and 10 assists this season, Primeau has five goals and three assists, and Stuart, the Calder Trophy runner-up in 1999-00, has two goals with 10 assists.
That trio will be hard-pressed to win their Boston debuts, facing an Ottawa team that has lost just three times all season. Every other team in the league has lost at least seven games.
The Senators have won all three meetings this season, outscoring the Bruins 14-5.
No team in the league has scored more goals (104) or given up fewer (45) than Ottawa, which has won six in a row. A victory Thursday would give the Senators their longest winning streak since a seven-game run from Oct. 25-Nov. 13, 2001.
One of the very few concerns for Ottawa is winger Martin Havlat, who dislocated his right shoulder in Tuesday's 4-0 victory over Montreal.
It's uncertain how long Havlat will be sidelined. He's fourth on the team with nine goals despite missing six games due to injury.
"It's always frustrating when you can't play. (The shoulder) doesn't feel that bad now," Havlat said. "I never had this before, but I knew right away. I hope this is it for this year. I just want to get back and get going."
One player that hasn't been stopped is Ottawa's Dany Heatley, the only player in the league to have a point in all of his team's games this season.
Acquired from Atlanta for Marian Hossa in an offseason trade, Heatley now looks to tie the NHL record for longest point streak with a new team. Wayne Gretzky had a 23-game streak to begin his stint with the Los Angeles Kings in 1988-89.
"There's no pressure because we're winning games," Heatley said. "I'm happy but there's not a big emphasis on it."
STANDINGS (through Nov. 30): Senators - 38 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Bruins - 21 points, 5th place, 17 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Daniel Alfredsson, 20 goals; Jason Spezza, 30 assists and 41 points; Brian McGrattan, 58 PIM. Bruins - Glen Murray, 12 goals; Sergei Samsonov, 13 assists and 24 points; Andrew Alberts, 43 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 30): Senators - Power play: 22.1 percent (31 for 140), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.7 percent (124 for 143), 2nd. Bruins - Power play: 19.2 percent (29 for 151), 9th. Penalty killing: 83.9 percent (141 for 168), 10th.
GOALTENDERS: Senators - Dominik Hasek (13-3-0, 3 SO, 1.92 GAA); Ray Emery (6-0-0, 1, 2.32). Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (4-11-2, 0, 3.43); Hannu Toivonen (4-2-3, 0, 3.22).
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Saturday; Senators, 4-2. At Ottawa, Spezza had two goals and two assists for his second career four-point game, while linemates Heatley and Alfredsson each had a goal and two assists.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 8-1-0 on the road; Bruins - 4-6-1 at home.