CANADIENS (43-27-7) at SENATORS (32-30-14)
TV: CBC, RDS
Last 10: Montreal 8-2-0; Ottawa 4-5-1
Season series: This will be the fifth and final game between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. Ottawa has earned a point in each, with a 2-0-2 record. Erik Karlsson has one goal and six points in those four games for the Senators.
Big story: Having clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canadiens are looking to improve their standing in the Atlantic Division. The Senators are hoping to keep their extremely slim playoff hopes alive.
Canadiens: Montreal has won eight of its past 10 games, but the Canadiens come to Canadian Tire Centre after a 3-1 road loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Those two teams are competing for second place in the Atlantic Division, which brings with it home ice advantage against the other in the first round of the playoffs.
Peter Budaj will make the start, his third in the past 12 games. He has one win in his past five starts.
"Hopefully we will be ready to play and it's going to be a good game. Every game against Ottawa is good, so we are looking forward to it," Budaj said after practice Thursday. "I expect nothing less than a good game from [the Senators]. They have a solid team, they have a tough team, they have a very proud team. They always play us hard, especially in their building."
Defenseman Douglas Murray will sit for the next three games after being suspended by the NHL for an illegal check against Lightning defenseman Michael Kostka on Tuesday.
Senators: A 2-1 regulation loss to the New York Islanders on Wednesday was a big blow to Ottawa, which knows it must win out to have any chance at the playoffs. The Senators enter the night seven points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, who own the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.
"We know the situation we are in," center Kyle Turris said Wednesday. "We know we have to win every game the rest of the way just to have a chance … Friday is another day."
Captain Jason Spezza will return to the lineup. Goaltender Craig Anderson will make his third straight start and has allowed three goals in his previous two games.
On Thursday, forward Bobby Ryan addressed the media for the first time since having season-ending surgery for a sports hernia. The Senators are 4-1-1 without Ryan in the lineup.
"I'm doing good, everything went well and I'm moving a little bit better each day," Ryan said. "Obviously the first couple of days I didn't do much at all but I'm starting to walk well and take stairs well and all that kind of stuff. It has been positive."
Who's hot: Canadiens forward Thomas Vanek has five points in his past four games. Max Pacioretty has four goals in five games. … Senators forward Milan Michalek has four goals in his past four games. Anderson has allowed six goals in his past three games and has a .944 save percentage in that span.
Injury report: Canadiens forward Brandon Prust (upper body) will miss the rest of the regular season. Defenseman Josh Gorges (hand) and forward Travis Moen (concussion) are out while wing Dale Weise (upper body) is questionable. … Ryan (sports hernia) is out for Ottawa. Defensemen Jared Cowen (lower body) and Colin Greening (lower body) will not play.