The Ottawa Senators look to complete a busy stretch with six wins in seven games and defeat the New York Rangers for the second time in one week as the teams meet Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions play just three games in an 18-day span following this contest, which will have seen them take the ice in seven over the first 11. Ottawa (5-1-0) had its perfect season end with Thursday's 5-3 loss to Carolina, and Senators center Jason Spezza stressed the importance of bouncing back with a win before heading into a less hectic portion of the early season.
"You don't want to lose two in a row, especially going into the long gap," the first-line center told the Senators' official Web site. "Any time you lose a game, you want to try to get back on it and win your next one so you don't get into a bit of a funk."
Spezza has a team-high 10 points - all assists - and has registered at least one in each of Ottawa's six games. Daniel Alfredsson, who had a goal and an assist in the 2-0 victory over the Rangers (2-2-0) on Oct. 6, has a five-game goal-scoring streak versus New York, while Dany Heatley has seven goals and nine assists in nine lifetime games at MSG.
"(Last Saturday), we probably played the opposite of the way we played (against Carolina)," Senators coach John Paddock said. "We played a pretty smart game but when you get the lead, you can do that."
Martin Gerber likely will get the start in goal again for the Senators. He turned aside 35 shots for his eighth career shutout in blanking the Rangers, and is 5-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average lifetime against them.
Ottawa's penalty-killing unit has allowed just one goal in 27 chances through its first six games, and will be facing a Rangers team that finally hit its stride with the man advantage. New York is coming off a 3-1 victory Friday against Washington, scoring all three times on the power play in the first period after going 0-for-15 in its first three games.
"Our power play won us the game," Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. "It's obviously a results business, but we're really trying to look at other stats that in the long run will get us lots of wins - that's generating scoring chances and eliminating scoring chances from the other team."
Jaromir Jagr assisted on all three goals and moved into 11th on the all-time scoring list ahead of Paul Coffey with 1,533 points. While the Czech native has yet to score a goal, he has posted all five of his assists in New York's two home games.
Jagr has 34 goals and 39 assists in 56 lifetime games against the Senators, but center Chris Drury - very familiar with the Senators in recent years after playing with Buffalo - had just two goals and two assists against them in eight games in 2006-07 and seven goals in 28 contests overall.
Scott Gomez, New York's other key free agent acquisition, netted his first goal with the Rangers on Friday, but has not scored in his last 21 games versus the Senators since Feb. 8, 2001. Gomez has just six assists in that span, but two came in a win Jan. 6 when playing for New Jersey.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has lost his last three starts against Ottawa and is 2-6 with a 2.45 GAA. He made 33 saves in the first meeting between the teams.