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Senators-Penguins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Ottawa Senators (37-14-5) at Pittsburgh Penguins (14-34-11).

TIME: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Dominik Hasek's decision to play in the Olympics has turned out to be a costly one for the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators will start the regular season's stretch run without the six-time Vezina Trophy winner when they meet the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hasek suffered a strained adductor muscle Feb. 15 in the Czech Republic's 4-1 win over Germany and will be sidelined indefinitely.

The Czechs were counting on the 41-year-old Hasek to duplicate his success at the 1998 Nagano Games, when he had a tournament-best five wins in leading them to their only gold medal.

Hasek, the only goaltender in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy twice as most valuable player, is tied with Martin Gerber and Martin Brodeur for third in the league with 28 wins. His five shutouts tie him with four players for second behind Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, who leads the league with six.

With Hasek sidelined, the Senators will go with rookies Ray Emery and Billy Thompson in net.

Emery has not played since making 22 saves in 5-2 win Feb. 6 against the Penguins. He had allowed 17 goals in his previous three starts, all losses, and was pulled from two of them. He did set an NHL record, though, with nine straight wins to begin his career.

Thompson was recalled Monday from Binghamton of the AHL, where he went 8-16-2 with a 3.91 goals-against average in 29 games.

Hasek's injury comes at a critical juncture for the Senators, who have a two-point lead over second-place Buffalo in the Northeast Division and trail Carolina by three points for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Ottawa entered the break after posting a 3-2 win over Philadelphia on Feb. 11 behind 27 saves from Hasek and goals from Antoine Vermette, Vaclav Varada and Dany Heatley.

Pittsburgh owns the worst record in the league, but is looking for a season-high third straight win. Sergei Gonchar had a goal and three assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves in a 6-3 win over Washington on Feb. 11.

That came one night after a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes.

"We've had a tough time getting wins," Fleury said. "To beat the best team in the league last night and then tonight to beat Washington here, that's good for us mentally."

The Penguins scored four power-play goals in 11 chances against the Caps. Nine of Pittsburgh's last 17 goals over five games have come with the man advantage.

Pittsburgh has not won three in a row since March 19-23, 2004, and has four losses and a tie in its last five matchups with Ottawa.

STANDINGS: Senators - 79 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Penguins - 39 points, 5th place, 39 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Daniel Alfredsson and Heatley, 34 goals; Jason Spezza, 45 assists; Alfredsson, 73 points; Chris Neil, 141 PIM. Penguins - Sidney Crosby, 28 goals, 37 assists and 65 points; Gonchar, 82 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 20.2 percent (69 for 342), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (293 for 352), 6th. Penguins - Power play: 18.4 percent (68 for 369), 12th. Penalty killing: 77.7 percent (307 for 395), 30th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Emery (9-4-1, 1 SO, 3.13 GAA); Thompson (no appearances). Penguins - Fleury (7-20-4, 3.29); Sebastien Caron (6-4-4, 4.19).

SEASON SERIES: Senators, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 6; Senators, 5-2. At Ottawa, Peter Schaefer had two goals and an assist to lead the Senators.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 15-8-4 on the road; Penguins - 7-16-6 at home.

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