|Mike Fisher and the Senators are only 1-4-0 against Northeast Division foes so far this season but have a chance to change that this week with games in Toronto and Montreal (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Around the National Hockey League, they're commonly known as "four-point" games.
And so far in the current campaign, at least, the Ottawa Senators are still looking to make the most of those crucial contests against Northeast Division foes.
Saturday's 4-0 loss at Scotiabank Place to the Boston Bruins dropped the Senators' record this season against division rivals to 1-4-0. Three of those losses have come against the Northeast's other two Canadian entries, the Toronto Maple Leafs (0-1-0) and Montreal Canadiens (0-2-0) — both of whom happen to show up on Ottawa's schedule again in the next few days.
Big week ahead? You bet, agreed Senators centre Mike Fisher.
"We beat Buffalo (on Oct. 22) but all the other games in our division, we haven't won," Fisher said earlier today before the Senators headed off to Toronto and a Tuesday matchup with the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "Those are huge four-point games and we've got to start winning some of those games. No better time to start than tomorrow. We've got to play good against that team."
Indeed, the Senators have dropped three straight games at the ACC, including a 5-1 decision back on Oct. 9. At 4-6-1, Ottawa currently stands fourth in the Northeast and 12th overall in the Eastern Conference. Tuesday's contest and a Saturday night matchup with the Canadiens in Montreal (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) offer a big opportunity to gain ground within the division.
"They're fun. You get fired up for them," Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire said of the Northeast showdowns. "There's always a lot of hype around the games. They're important — it's so close right now and it's the same thing every year. You've got to make sure you stay with the pack. I think that's the most important thing."
No doubt the Senators will be looking for a quicker start Tuesday night than in the teams' last meeting in Toronto, when the Leafs built a 2-0 lead before the game was eight minutes old and never relinquished control the rest of the way.
"They've come out hard the last couple of times we've played there and kind of let them dictate the pace of the play," said Senators centre Jason Spezza
. "When we've had success there, we've started out well and tried to take the crowd out of it. The first 10 minutes should be a big focus for us."Around the boardsDaniel Alfredsson
left practice early this morning, but travelled with the team to Toronto and is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday night against the Leafs. "He's not 100 per cent, but he knows his body better than anybody," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston. "It's a little tweak (of the) lower body and I think he should be fine tomorrow. That's why he went off (early). I told him to go off, ride the bike and see how things are tomorrow. But we expect him to be ready tomorrow." ... Defenceman Filip Kuba
, who's been sidelined since the opening day of training camp in September with a broken right leg, also made the trip to Hogtown but won't suit up against the Leafs. "Possibly Thursday (at home against the New York Islanders), but more likely Saturday is the goal we're shooting for."