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Struggling Senators return home to face Habs

by Brian Hunter

CANADIENS (26-17-4) at SENATORS (17-24-7)


Last 10:
Montreal 6-2-2; Ottawa 1-6-3

Season series: Fifth of six meetings this season between these Northeast Division rivals. Montreal has won three of the first four, including a 4-1 win at Bell Centre on Dec. 7 in the most recent matchup. Brian Gionta and Andrei Kostitsyn lead the Canadiens with 3 goals apiece, while Carey Price has been in goal for each game, recording a 3-0 shutout at Scotiabank Place on Oct. 23. Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek have each scored 2 goals for the Senators.

Big story: Montreal has picked up at least a point in eight of its past nine games, strengthening its hold on an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Six of those nine games have required overtime and one went as far as the shootout, so fans in Ottawa shouldn't be surprised if Friday's game takes more than 60 minutes to decide.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: After P.K. Subban played hero with an OT goal against Calgary on Monday night, Montreal looked for more late heroics 24 hours later at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. However, a high-sticking penalty to Scott Gomez in the final minute of regulation led to Jason Pominville of the Sabres scoring on the power play 1:09 into overtime to hand the Canadiens a 2-1 defeat. Their lone goal came courtesy of rookie David Desharnais. Price, who stopped 37 shots, was still pleased with the effort.

"It almost feels like a win, getting that point," he said. "I felt like we were battling uphill all game. Our guys played hard and we had to earn it."

Senators: The downhill slide continued for Ottawa on Thursday night in Philadelphia, as the Flyers used three third-period goals to bust open a close game and top the Senators by a 6-2 score. The Flyers also scored the first three goals, but the Senators closed to within one at the end of the second on goals by Michalek and Nick Foligno 78 seconds apart. Michalek's goal came shorthanded.

"It's a tough building to play in," coach Cory Clouston said. "We showed a lot of character. We didn't lay down."

Who's hot:
Price is 4-1-1 in his last six appearances for the Canadiens, including Monday's win over the Flames in which he relieved Alex Auld and turned in 18 scoreless minutes. … Michalek and Foligno each has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last five games for the Senators.

Injury report: Montreal lost a pair of forwards in addition to Tuesday's game with Buffalo -- Michael Cammalleri was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, while Max Pacioretty was taken to an area hospital after being hit in the right side by a shot and suffering bruised ribs. He skated Thursday, as did forwards Jeff Halpern (upper body) and Benoit Pouliot (flu-like symptoms), who are day-to-day. … Kovalev (knee) and Jason Spezza (shoulder) are on injured reserve for Ottawa, and goalie Pascal Leclaire (lower body) is also out indefinitely.

Stat pack: Tuesday's game was the 3,000th on the road in Canadiens franchise history -- they have a 1,251-1,256-493 record. … The Senators accumulated 69 minutes of penalties Thursday, including 65 in the third period. Chris Neil led the way with 19 and another 17 came courtesy of Matt Carkner.

Puck drop: With its rash of injuries -- Pouliot is expected to return to the lineup Friday and Pacioretty plans to try playing through his injury, but Cammalleri is out while Halpern is doubtful -- Montreal recalled forwards Ryan White and Andreas Engqvist from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. White had 2 assists in 16 games with the big club last season while Engqvist would be making his NHL debut.

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