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Senators go for 5 in a row as Blues come to town

by John Kreiser

BLUES (22-20-7) at SENATORS (26-21-4)

Last 10 -- St. Louis 5-3-2; Ottawa 5-5-0

Season series -- The teams are meeting for the only time this season. Ottawa won 3-1 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Jan. 29 in the clubs' only meeting last season. The teams are 10-10 with a pair of ties in their all-time series, but Ottawa is 4-0-1 in the last five.

Big story -- The return of captain Daniel Alfredsson has resulted in a 180-degree turnaround for the Senators, who were threatening to fall out of the top eight in the East last week after a five-game losing streak. But after beating the Rangers 2-0 in New York on Thursday, Alfredsson had a goal and a pair of assists in Saturday's 4-2 win at Montreal and a natural hat trick in Monday's 5-1 win at Boston. He didn't score on Tuesday, but the Senators made it four wins in a row with a 4-1 home win over Chicago.

Team Scope:

Blues -- The coaching change that cost Andy Murray his job and brought in Davis Payne behind the bench has turned the Blues' fortunes around. They are 5-3-1 since the change and have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games, including Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win at Montreal.

The rare win in Montreal (13-41-7 all-time) was the result of a goal by Andy McDonald, but goaltender Ty Conklin gave him the chance to win when he robbed Andrei Markov on a perfect setup in front seconds before McDonald beat Carey Price.

"A lot of times that's what can happen," Payne said. "You look at scenarios in overtime -- it got a little wide open, they had the puck for the first portion of that 4-on-4 and we got the one opportunity that counted. A great save by Ty on Markov coming down the slot, and obviously that one saved the opportunity for two points."

Senators -- The Senators have been battered by injuries, but owner Eugene Melnyk is proud of the way they've competed and feels his team is capable of a long playoff run.

"On (CFRA) radio today, I promised the city of Ottawa that we'd go deep into the playoffs, so I can't recant on that one," Melnyk said Wednesday in a story posted on the team's Web site following the team's photo shoot.

"On paper, at the beginning of the season, this was an elite team - one of the top five teams in the league. And now they're starting to show their stuff and it can only get better because of all the injured players coming back."

Who's hot -- Blues goaltender Chris Mason, the likely starter, is 4-1-0 in his last five decisions and has allowed just nine goals in that span. … Alfredsson has 4 goals and 6 points in three games since his return. Center Mike Fisher has 2 goals and 7 points during the four-game winning streak. Goaltender Brian Elliott has allowed just two goals in beating Boston and Chicago this week.

Injury report -- The Blues are healthy, the Senators are not. However, Ottawa got Alfredsson back last Saturday and expect to get first-line winger Milan Michalek back for this game. He's been out since Jan. 7 with a concussion. Ottawa may also get No. 1 center Jason Spezza back from knee surgery in a week or so. They're still without goaltender Pascal Leclaire (concussion), but have gotten superb work from backup Brian Elliott and minor-league Callup Mike Brodeur.

Stat pack -- The Blues haven't won in Ottawa since a 4-1 victory on Jan. 26, 2000. At the time, it was their sixth win in seven lifetime visits to Canada's capital. Since then, they've lost four in a row. … The Blues and Senators have had just two of their 22 meetings go past regulation -- and have yet to have a game decided in either overtime or a shootout.

Puck drop -- A week ago, the Senators looked like they were ready to fade out of the playoff picture; now they are fifth in Eastern Conference, brimming with confidence and getting their key players back. This is a crucial game for Ottawa, which has a League-low 12 home games after this one. But beating St. Louis won't be easy -- the Blues are much-improved under Payne as they try to make a run for the playoffs after a poor start.

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