GAME: Ottawa Senators (28-8-3) at Montreal Canadiens (18-15-6).
TIME: Saturday, 2 p.m. EST.
The Senators and Canadiens both got off to quick starts this season. Only one team, though, has been able to keep it going to the midway point.
Montreal will try to avoid its fifth straight loss as it meets Northeast Division-leader Ottawa at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens improved to 12-3-1 after a 3-2 victory on Nov. 8 over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Since then, however, Montreal has failed to win consecutive games and nearly tied an 80-year-old record with a nine-game road losing streak.
Montreal needed just 11 seconds to the take the lead Thursday over New Jersey, but ended up losing 5-4 to the Devils.
Goaltender Jose Theodore gave up three first-period goals in a 14:52 span and two more 2:21 apart in the second.
Theodore - a former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner - is 0-4-0 with a 4.30 goals-against average during the losing streak. He is 0-2-1 with a 3.98 GAA against the Senators this season, stopping just 100 of 112 shots for an .880 save percentage.
Montreal coach Claude Julien said he saw some positive signs from the team after Michael Ryder and rookie Andrei Kastsitsyn scored early in the third to draw the Canadiens within one.
"It showed that our guys aren't going to quit and that they kept battling," Julien said. "I have to give our players credit for the way they battled in the third period."
Ottawa is coming off a loss, but looking for its sixth win in eight games. Chris Neil and Mike Fisher scored in the Senators' 4-2 loss Thursday to the Boston Bruins.
Ottawa still is playing well despite injuries to right wing Daniel Alfredsson (cracked rib) and center Jason Spezza (pulled chest muscle). The Senators are also without left wing Martin Havlat for the the season with a shoulder injury.
Dany Heatley, though, is healthy and playing well. He has six goals and six assists in his last 10 games, despite being held without a point in the loss to the Bruins.
It marked just the fifth time this season Heatley has been held off the scoresheet this season.
He has a goal and four assists in three games against Montreal this season. He also has scored in 12 of 13 career games against Montreal, recording four goals and 12 assists in that span.
STANDINGS: Senators - 59 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Canadiens - 42 points, 4th place, 17 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Heatley, 26 goals and 56 points; Spezza, 35 assists; Zdeno Chara, 100 PIM. Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 18 goals; Koivu, 21 assists and 30 points; Steve Begin, 87 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 21.8 percent (54 for 248), 2nd (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (221 for 261), 8th. Canadiens - Power play: 17.5 percent (41 for 234), 15th. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (198 for 246), 24th.
GOALTENDERS: Senators - Dominik Hasek (20-6-2, 3 SO, 2.09 GAA); Ray Emery (8-2-1, 1, 2.78). Canadiens - Theodore (14-11-5, 0, 3.22); Cristobal Huet (1-2-1, 0, 3.67).
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 3-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 20; Canadiens, 4-3 (SO). At Montreal, Alex Kovalev had a goal and two assists to lead the rally for Montreal, which had its biggest comeback in eight years during the shootout. Andrej Meszaros scored one goal in seven shots for the Senators.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 12-5-3 on the road; Canadiens - 11-6-2 at home.