SENATORS (41-30-5) at CAPITALS (49-15-11)
Last 10 --
Ottawa 5-5-0; Washington 5-2-3
Season series --
They split the first two games of the season series with Ottawa winning in overtime on Nov. 23 and Washington winning, 5-2, on Jan. 7. The Senators then beat the Caps, 6-5, on Feb. 11 behind three points each from Milan Michalek
and Filip Kuba
Big story --
The Senators are still trying to move into a top four seed in the Eastern Conference and perhaps catch Buffalo for first place in the Northeast Division. The odds are against them in both scenarios, but with a win Tuesday they would move closer to locking up the fifth seed and then they can watch Pittsburgh and New Jersey jockey between the second and fourth seeds. Washington is just playing out the string with nothing to gain except for the Presidents' Trophy.
Arguably the streakiest team in the NHL is on a good one now. The Senators have won four straight after losing five in a row, all in regulation. They also had an 11-game winning streak before the Olympic break that came on the heels of a five-game losing streak. It's been that type of season for the Senators, but they are feeling good at the right time as they try to at least make the Sabres sweat atop the Northeast Division. The problem is the two stars the last time they played Washington, Michalek and Kuba, could both miss this game with various injuries. It's not stopping the Sens from feeling good.
"We can match up against anybody, I think," captain Daniel Alfredsson
said. "We know how close it is and how close a (playoff) series will be, but we feel that if we can continue here all the way to the playoffs, we can do some damage."
With little to play for, the Capitals hosted a desperate Calgary Flames team on Sunday and got whooped, 5-3. Goalie Jose Theodore was pulled after giving up three goals on just 10 shots in a little over 10 minutes of action. However, the Caps responded by scoring three goals to preserve Theodore's record run. He's still 17-0-2 in his last 19 decisions. It was the first time Theodore was chased from a game since Nov. 11 and just the second time this season. Theodore has been so good over the past two-and-a-half months that he may very well have earned the No. 1 job going into the playoffs. Bruce Boudreau still hasn't said one way or the other, but he did announce Theodore as the starter for Tuesday's game.
"I just thought he was fighting the puck -- every shot was fighting the puck," Boudreau said after Sunday's game. "I didn't think he had it today. He will be back on Tuesday. He has played an awful lot of good games that have kept us in during the first period. We just weren't ready to play."
Who's hot --
Senators rookie defenseman Erik Karlsson
had his best game as an NHLer Saturday night in a 3-2 win over Florida. Karlsson had three points in 22 minutes and was named the game's first star. Alfredsson has points in seven straight games (3-7-10) and a goal in each of his last three.
Injury report --
The Capitals will likely again be without Boyd Gordon (back) while Brooks Laich
(face), Brendan Morrison (lower body) and Scott Walker (knee) are all questionable. Milan Jurcina (hernia) is out. … Michalek and Kuba are both day to day for the Senators.
Stat pack --
Alfredsson will play in his 997th NHL game tonight. If he stays healthy, he'll play in his 1,000th NHL game April 6 at Florida. He is 15 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
Puck drop --
"It's funny," Ottawa center Mike Fisher told the Ottawa Citizen. "We've been through this a few times -- a bunch of wins, a bunch of losses -- for whatever reason. It just seems like confidence, our goaltending … (Brian Elliott) has done a great job the last few games. Everyone has been playing well, all our lines. It's a lot of little things that add up to wins."