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Sens try to bounce back as they visit Capitals

by Dan Rosen

SENATORS (22-17-4) at CAPITALS (25-11-6)

Last 10 -- Ottawa 5-5-0; Washington 5-5-0

Season series -- This is the second of four meetings between the clubs this season. Ottawa won 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 23 at Scotiabank Place. The Capitals took a 3-1 lead into the third period that night, but Chris Neil and Alexandre Picard scored in the first 7:40 of the third period and Mike Fisher won it 1:14 into OT. The teams have alternated wins and losses in their last six meetings.

Big story -- The Senators will try to get back on track after getting blitzed by Boston, 4-1, Tuesday night. The Capitals will try to keep it going after taking out Montreal, 4-2, in Alex Ovechkin's debut as team captain. It was Washington's first win in 2010, and it ended a three-game losing streak.

Team Scope:

Senators -- Ottawa got mauled at home by the Bruins on Tuesday night, but if you go back to the Senators' last bad loss, an 8-2 defeat at the hands of the Penguins on Dec. 23, they are actually playing quite well. Ottawa has won four of six games since that pre-Christmas debacle. However, goaltending has been an issue in the last two games. Against Philadelphia this past Sunday, Pascal Leclaire was pulled after allowing three goals on 10 shots. He can thank Alex Kovalev, who scored four goals, for bailing him out in a 7-4 win. However, Brian Elliott, who stopped 10 of 11 Flyers' shots after coming in for Leclaire, gave up four goals to Boston in the first 13:45 of Tuesday's game before he was pulled. Leclaire was perfect against 19 shots, so maybe he gets the start tonight. However, he did suffer a lower body injury in the third period Tuesday, so he's not a sure thing.

Capitals -- After a Tuesday filled with naming Ovechkin captain, snapping a three-game losing streak and then watching star prospect John Carlson score the gold medal-winning overtime goal for Team USA in the World Junior Championship finale, the Capitals made some more news Wednesday. They inked star faceoff man David Steckel and reliable defenseman/forward Tyler Sloan to contract extensions. OK, so maybe that news pales in comparison to Tuesday's theatrics, but it still is big in Caps land. So would be building on a strong effort against the Canadiens. Odds are Jose Theodore gets the start in goal, but rookie Michal Neuvirth has played in three consecutive games and six of the last seven.

Who's hot -- For the Senators, Kovalev has six points in the last two games, but it helps that he scored four goals and dished out an assist in one of those games. For the Capitals, Tomas Fleischmann moved from left wing to center Tuesday and contributed a goal and two assists. Could he be the Capitals' answer for a third center to go along with Nicklas Backstrom and Brendan Morrison -- something they have been searching for all season? Perhaps, but we'll have to wait and see on that one. Alexander Semin also broke out of a slump with two goals against the Habs.

Injury report -- For the Senators, captain Daniel Alfredsson (left shoulder) and Jason Spezza (right knee) remain out. Kovalev and Leclaire skipped Wednesday's practice, but coach Cory Clouston was hopeful both would be available in Washington. The Capitals could get defenseman Brian Pothier back tonight. He has missed the last 11 games with a rib injury. Goalie Semyon Varlamov was meeting in Washington with team doctors on Wednesday, but he's supposed to be out another two weeks with a nagging groin injury.

Stat pack -- Courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen: The Senators are 5-1 when Clouston decides to make the morning skate optional. … Theodore has played just two games since a win on Dec. 15 and he's given up a combined eight goals in losses at Vancouver and to Carolina. Ottawa is just 6-10-1 on the road while the Capitals are 13-3-3 at home.

Puck drop -- "This organization has been really good to me and I really like it here," Steckel said after signing his three-year extension, reportedly worth $1.1 million per. "We're building something here for a while and I just wanted to be a part of it. When it came down to it both parties agreed. I couldn't be happier."

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