The sting of defeat is already beginning to wear off.
And that’s a good thing for the Ottawa Senators, who can’t wait to get back at it after Thursday’s disappointing 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place – a result that ended the Sens’ team-record eight-game winning streak.
There’s no time for too much moping, though. Not with the high-flying Montreal Canadiens coming to the capital for a Saturday matinee (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
Then again, the sight of one of their biggest rivals is incentive enough to aim for a quick rebound.
“It’s nice that we’re playing again right away, and against (Montreal) there should be good energy in here,” said winger Dany Heatley. “It’s a lot tougher when you have four or five days off after a loss. It’s nice to get right back in there.”
With a 9-3-3 record, the Canadiens have been one of the National Hockey League’s early surprises. They bring the league’s No. 1 power play (a gaudy 29.7 per cent success rate) into this matchup, an especially big concern if the Senators (13-2-0) can’t halt the parade to the penalty box, which has plagued them in recent games.
“Their power play has been working really well for them,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. “It’s almost like they’re saying ‘keep it close 5-on-5, and we’ll win it on specialty teams.’
“We’ve had good penalty killing throughout the year, but you don’t want to force it and try your luck too often. If we can stay out of the box a little bit more, it’ll definitely help us in the end.”
Saturday’s game is the Senators’ first of five straight against division rivals. They’ve been a perfect 6-0-0 against the Northeast so far this season, a success rate they’d like to extend for as long as possible.
“If you struggle against any team in your division, that ends up hurting you,” said Heatley. “They’re huge games and huge points.”
Head coach John Paddock pointed toward the standings – and the Senators’ 4-3 victory over the Habs back on Oct. 18 – to underscore the importance of “four-point games” within the division.
“Look in the loss column, and the difference (in the standings) between us and Montreal is the head-to-head game,” he said. “We know they’re not that far behind us. Despite what we’ve done (so far), we know they’re right there.”
The Senators also want to avoid a two-game losing streak that would linger for four days, until the Buffalo Sabres visit next Thursday.
“That’s good incentive for (Saturday’s) game,” said Heatley. “There’s enough at stake. (The Canadiens) are creeping up and they’re playing well. It’ll be a good test for us.”
Injured centre Jason Spezza
(groin) didn’t practise with the rest of the team on Friday, meaning he’ll sit out his sixth-straight game Saturday. The hope now, Paddock said, is that Spezza will be ready to suit up against the Sabres.
”I hope that he’s on the ice with us Monday, or Tuesday at the latest,” said Paddock.
Fewer than 200 tickets remain for Saturday’s game.Lineup notes
Martin Gerber will make his 12th start of the season in goal. He’s 10-1-0 so far, with a 1.80 goals-against average and .941 save percentage … Defenceman Anton Volchenkov, who left Thursday’s game against the Caps with a bruised right thigh after blocking an Alex Ovechkin shot, said he’s still sore but intends to play Saturday.