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Senators continue homestand against Penguins

by Davis Harper /

PENGUINS (17-10-4) at SENATORS (14-14-2)


LAST 10: Pittsburgh 5-4-1; Ottawa 4-4-2

Season Series : This is the second of four season meetings. Pittsburgh prevailed 6-3 at home on Nov. 25 as six Penguins tallied and Sidney Crosby chipped in three assists.

Big Story: This is a showdown of concussion-depleted teams, as Pittsburgh travels without key cogs Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby, both out with concussion-related symptoms. Ottawa will be without its top gun, Milan Michalek, who suffered a concussion when he collided with teammate Erik Karlsson, for a second straight game. Michalek's brother, Pittsburgh's Zbynek, may return to the ice after missing seven games with a head injury of his own.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh hasn't played since suffering a 4-1 home loss to Detroit on Tuesday. Evgeni Malkin gave the Pens an early lead, but Detroit responded with four unanswered goals for the victory. The loss was Pittsburgh's third in four games - its lone win came in a 6-3 throttling of the New York Islanders -- but coach Dan Bylsma says attention to detail, rather than missing stars, is the key.

"We talk about that amongst our team all year long -- it's always going to come down to one or two plays," Bylsma said after the Detroit game. "How we execute and the details are important, and it came down to one or two details the other way."

Senators: After a 3-2 overtime win in Buffalo on Tuesday, Ottawa began a four-game homestand on Wednesday with a 5-2 loss to Boston. Despite the lopsided scoreline, the Senators -- playing without NHL goals leader Michalek -- forced Bruins goalie Tim Thomas into a season-high 47 saves. The Senators struggled again on the power play. Ottawa is 2-4-2 in their past eight games, a stretch where they've converted just 2 of 32 man-advantage chances.

"We had some good chances on the power play at the end, we just need to make more of our chances," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who scored Ottawa's first goal. "We're doing a good job of getting the puck to the net, we're shooting pucks, we're getting people there. When things are clicking, I think you're a little more patient. Right now, we just want to get to the net and don't think about where the rebound might go."

Who's Hot: Malkin has five points in his last three outings. … Ottawa's Jason Spezza has seven points in his last four games, including a goal and an assist against Boston.

Injury Report: Zbynek Michalek may return, but Crosby will miss his fourth straight game and Letang his eighth with their respective injuries. Center Jordan Staal is day-to-day with a lower body injury, though he played Tuesday. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is doubtful with concussion-like symptoms, while Richard Park (fractured foot), Ben Lovejoy (broken wrist) and Dustin Jeffrey (knee) are all on injured reserve. … In addition to Michalek, Ottawa's blue line is depleted as defensemen Sergei Gonchar (questionable) and Filip Kuba (IR) are both out with upper body injuries.

Stat Pack: No one would accuse either probable goalie -- Pittsburgh's Brent Johnson (2-3-2, 2.89 GAA, .899 save percentage) and Ottawa's Craig Anderson (13-11-2, 3.42 GAA, .894 save percentage) - of having career years, but Johnson has been exceptional against the Senators, going 8-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA in his career against Ottawa.

Puck Drop: "You just don't know if a guy is going to be one week, two weeks, or out longer. That uncertainty makes it tough to plan in terms of down the road." - Bylsma, on his concussion-riddled lineup.

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