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Senators set to host surging Canadiens

by Mike Battaglino /

CANADIENS (4-1-0) at SENATORS (4-1-1)


Season series: This is the first meeting; the teams play again Sunday. The Montreal Canadiens got at least a point in each of the six games last season, with four wins, a shootout loss and an overtime loss.

Big story: The Canadiens gave away a two-goal lead for a second straight game, but they managed to win both, the latest 4-3 over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. After opening last season 1-5-2, then finishing last in the Eastern Conference, Montreal has won four in a row to sit fifth, one spot behind Ottawa.

The Senators had been outscored 8-1 in a stretch over three games before getting the final three goals in a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. They played without Jason Spezza, who was out with an upper-body injury.

Team scope:

Canadiens: Montreal also blew two, two-goal leads against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday but won 4-3 in overtime.

"We have some bad shifts but we're able to come back stronger with better ones, more focus to stay with the game plan, stay with the game that we want to play, and I think that's what was falling apart last year," Tomas Plekanec said, according to The Sports Xchange.

The power play, led by resurgent Andrei Markov, won Tuesday's game for Montreal. It converted two of five chances, including the game-winning goal by Plekanec, to improve the season's success rate to 31 percent.

Markov has seven points on the Canadiens' eight power-play goals.

P.K. Subban, who signed a two-year contract Monday, will have his physical in Ottawa on Wednesday, according to the Montreal Gazette. It is uncertain if he will play this game.

With the first back-to-back set of the season, goalie Carey Price could get his first night off here, despite a 1.61 goals-against average and .950 save percentage against the Senators in six games last season. Peter Budaj would start.

Senators: After opening with 15 goals in four games, Ottawa's offense disappeared until striking for three goals in the final 22 minutes Wednesday.

The Senators have given up the first goal in five of six games; the other was a shutout.

"We know that from last year that we’ve got to play to the end," Daniel Alfredsson told the Ottawa Citizen. "(At the start), they forechecked us really hard. Our first goal was huge for us. …

"We know we can [come back] and that's a good feeling. We know it's not going to happen every time, but the more times you do it, the more confident you become and the more teams become aware of it."

Mika Zibanejad made his return to the NHL with an assist on Jim O'Brien's goal. Erik Condra got his first assist, and Sergei Gonchar scored his first goal (the game-winner with 2:30 left).

Goalie Craig Anderson is 4-0-1, with a 0.98 GAA and .967 save percentage. He went 1-3 with a 3.48 GAA and .879 save percentage against Montreal last season.

Ottawa lost its first back end of a back-to-back, 6-4 at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 25.

Who's hot: Markov has at least a point in four straight games, and three game-winning goals. … Price has won four in a row after losing the opener 2-1. … Montreal has not allowed an even-strength, first-period goal. … Senators forward Milan Michalek has one point in every game. … Kyle Turris had four goals in the first five games.

Injury report: It's not known if Spezza will play Wednesday. Alfredsson returned after not playing Sunday due to illness. Mike Lundin (finger) and Jared Cowen (hip surgery) are out. … Canadiens defenseman Tomas Kaberle played after sitting out Sunday with an injury to his face. Forward Max Paciroetty is out after having an appendectomy.

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