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Senators, Leafs aiming to end scoring droughts

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson skipped the morning skate in Toronto but is hopeful a lower-body injury won't keep him out of the lineup tonight against the Maple Leafs (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Toronto matchup.

TORONTO — The latest instalment of the Battle of Ontario is shaping up as a fight for goals.

Both the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs arrive at the Air Canada Centre for tonight's matchup (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200) a bit starved for offence. The Senators were blanked 4-0 by the Boston Bruins on Saturday night at home, while the Leafs haven't scored in 122:24 — a span of more than two games.

Given all of that, it's fair to suggest that goals could well be at a premium in this evening's affair. And, perhaps more than usual, the first one could set a rather large tone for the proceedings. The Senators and Leafs are a combined 7-0-0 when scoring first so far this season.

"It creates a lot of momentum and it does permeate through the team," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of the importance of notching the first goal. "It does show us that we can have success. It's almost a pressure release and it does allow us to play more of our game. But there's not a team in the league that would prefer not to have the lead.

"You can be a little more patient with your game and at times, when we don't have the lead, we start forcing things and we get off page a bit."

That's exactly what happened back on Oct. 9, when the teams last met in Toronto. The Leafs were up 1-0 before the game was two minutes old and cruised to a 5-1 victory. But centre Jason Spezza is confident the Senators will bring a better effort tonight.

"We feel like we owe them one," he said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today at the ACC. "They took it two us and we got off to a bad start the first couple of games. We've played better hockey since then and we're probably a better team than we were in that (loss). Hopefully, we can show it tonight."

Perhaps the biggest concern for the Senators heading into tonight's matchup, however, is the status of captain Daniel Alfredsson. The team's leading goal scorer (six) and point-getter (12) skipped the morning skate to rest a lower-body injury. While Clouston declared Alfredsson will be "a game-time decision," he expects to have his captain in the lineup tonight.

Alfredsson, for his part, was guardedly optimistic about facing off against the Leafs.

"It's getting better today, for sure," said Alfredsson, who left practice early on Monday after feeling a tweak. "Not good enough to go on the ice this morning but by tonight I hope, anyway, that it's going to be good enough to play.

"I'll try to go out for the (pre-game warmup), no question. I'll know for sure after the pre-game if I go or not. I just have to wait for tonight and I'm just hoping it's going to be good enough to play."

Around the boards

Brian Elliott gets the start in goal for the Senators tonight, with Pascal Leclaire dressing as the backup ... The Senators' biggest chore this evening: stop Phil Kessel. The Leafs' forward is riding a 12-game point streak against Ottawa that includes eight goals in his last eight games. "We have to be better in position (against him)," said Clouston. "We have to take time and space away, and we've got to put pressure in the right places." ... The Senators return home Tuesday to face the New York Islanders at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) before finishing out the week Saturday in Montreal versus the Canadiens (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). 

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