SENATORS (10-9-1) at CANUCKS (9-9-1)
TV: SNET-East, SNET-West, TVA
LAST 10: Ottawa 5-4-1; Vancouver 5-5-0
Season Series: This is the first of two meetings this season -- the Canucks come to Scotiabank Place on Dec. 10. Vancouver won both meetings last season and has prevailed in seven of eight since the start of 2005-06. The Canucks have outscored the Senators 29-13 in that span.
Big Story: These middle-of-the-pack teams have taken dramatically different paths to get where they are -- the Senators have had hot and cold streaks, while the Canucks have been maddeningly erratic. The Senators are riding their second surge of the season, and the Canucks will have to slow them down
Senators: Ottawa’s season has been a roller coaster. After starting with losses in five of six, the Senators won six straight to finish October -- then lost five in a row to begin November. Now they’re back on a roll again with three consecutive victories, all against other Canadian clubs.
Ottawa won at Calgary and Edmonton in back-to-back games for only the second time in franchise history, and the Senators can complete a one-trip sweep of the three Western Canadian teams for the first time in franchise history with a win at Rogers Arena.
Canucks: The Canucks have been consistently inconsistent, neither winning nor losing more than two in a row. There have been too many losses though, and the team that captured the Presidents’ Trophy and came within a victory of the Stanley Cup currently resides outside the top eight in the Western Conference after getting whacked 5-1 at home by Chicago on Wednesday.
"We're aware of where our game is right now," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Like I've said a few times lately, we're not that far away. But, obviously, we're not good enough right now, and we're aware of it."
Who's Hot: Milan Michalek has played a big part in Ottawa’s unexpected early-season success. He's second in the League with 12 goals, including four in the past six games. Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen with 18 points and is tied for the League lead in assists with Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin. Both Daniel and twin brother Henrik have seven points in the past five games for the Canucks.
Injury Report: Forwards Chris Neil (ankle) and Peter Regin (shoulder) are out for the Senators. Defenseman Matt Carkner (knee) has yet to play this season, but he’s been skating with the team in practice. … Forward Mason Raymond (back) is practicing with the Canucks, but he too has not played this season. Goalie Roberto Luongo (upper body), center Ryan Kesler (shoulder) and defenseman Keith Ballard (back) are all out against Ottawa.
Stat Pack: While the Senators have been incredibly streaky, one thing has been pretty consistent about their games – lots of goals. Ottawa is seventh in the League in scoring, averaging 2.90 goals per game. The Senators are also third from the bottom in average goals allowed at 3.35 per game. The 6.25 goals per game is the second-most in the NHL – only games involving the Philadelphia Flyers (6.55) feature more combined goals. … The Canucks had the best power play in the League last season with a 24.3 percent conversion rate, and despite their struggles at times this season the PP has not been the problem. Vancouver is again pacing the NHL with the extra man, as the Canucks are connecting on 26.7 of their opportunities.
Puck Drop: The Senators were almost universally expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, but they have won nine of 14 and entered the games on Saturday in eighth place in the East.
“We had a tough start to the season and we have come a long ways since,” captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “We know where we want to be and that’s what the season is for, to build and learn and get better. We are giving ourselves chances right now.”