For the Ottawa Senators, it's a coincidence so obvious that it almost seems eerie.
Back in January, the Senators turned around their 2009-10 season with a franchise-record 11-game winning streak that started with road victories against the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.
Now here they are, 11 months later, with precisely the same opportunity presenting itself as the Senators battle to escape the clutches of a 2-7-1 skid. And buoyed by a 3-1 victory over the Rangers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Ottawa hopes to keep the momentum rolling during tonight's matchup against — you guessed it — the Canadiens at the Bell Centre here in Montreal (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).
But it's history of a much more recent sort that the Senators are trying to build upon as the face off against goaltender Carey Price and the Habs this evening. Namely, the win over the Rangers and the 1-0 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres — a game in which Ottawa played well enough to deserve a better fate — that preceded it.
"We struggled for a few games there," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston following the team's pre-game skate earlier today at the Bell Centre. "But we feel we got our game back on track the last couple of games. That's what we're focusing on."
Added centre Chris Kelly: "The last two games, we have played well and we want to move forward and get those points now. After the New Year, points are tougher to come by, so we just want to get back to playing our game."
Kelly's hat trick against the Rangers gave a jolt of life to the Ottawa offence, which had scored one goal or less in four of its previous five games. The Senators know they'll need even more of that tonight against the Canadiens and Price, whose goaltending has rated among the National Hockey League's best so far this season.
"We have to play a little more aggressive than we've been playing," centre Jason Spezza
said when asked about the Senators' recent offensive woes. "We can't be (afraid) to make mistakes. We've just got to bear down and bury our chances. We're getting lots of chances as a group, but we have to do a better job of creating a few more and just making sure we bury them when we get them."
Said Clouston: "We scored enough to win (Sunday) night and that's all we care about. But we need to be stronger at the net. We need to be a little bit more confident around the net and if we do that, things will go in."
The Senators currently trail the Boston Bruins, who hold down the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, by five points but the B's have played three fewer games. What Ottawa (12-14-2) needs more than anything right now to help its cause is a run of victories, even if it isn't a streak of record proportions this time.
"You can learn a lot from adversity. We showed that last year," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. "The biggest thing in this league is, you've got to put streaks together. Make the winning streaks longer than the losing streaks and you'll be fine."Around the boards
No lineup changes for the Senators tonight, which means forward Peter Regin
is a healthy scratch for a second straight game and will join blueliner Brian Lee in the press box. "We had a good game (in New York)," said Clouston. "I wasn't disappointed in anybody ... everybody contributed and everybody played well. That's why we feel there's no reason to make a change" ... Pascal Leclaire makes his second straight start in goal and will do it in his hometown ... Senators forward Milan Michalek
celebrates his 26th birthday today ... After tonight, Ottawa returns home to face the Rangers on Thursday (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200) and the New Jersey Devils on Friday (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).