The Ottawa Senators are the best team in the Eastern Conference, but they've hardly looked like it against the lowly Washington Capitals.
The Senators look to avoid being swept in the season series against the Capitals for the first time in a dozen years as they meet Tuesday at the Verizon Center.
First-place Ottawa (29-11-4) has 62 points, but none of those points have come against the Capitals (18-21-5), who are in 13th place in the East.
The Senators have been outscored 18-10 in losing the first three games of the season series against Washington, as Alexander Ovechkin has been a big reason for the Capitals' success.
Ovechkin, who was named to his second All-Star team on Friday, has five goals and four assists against the Senators this season - including the only four-goal game of his career in an 8-6 victory in Ottawa on Dec. 29. He has nine goals and nine assists in 11 career games against the Senators.
Ottawa has not been swept in a season series to the Capitals since losing all four meetings in 1995-96. The Senators have also lost their last three games at the Verizon Center, and have not lost four straight in Washington since dropping the franchise's first four trips there from Oct. 16, 1992-April 4, 1994.
Ottawa hopes the return of a couple of key players can help the team end its slide against the Capitals.
Center Jason Spezza, who has 15 goals and a team-high 38 assists, is expected to play after missing the final two periods of Sunday's 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders after taking a hard hit in the first period. Spezza was held out the rest of Sunday's game for "precautionary measures," but is making the trip to Washington.
"I wouldn't be going on the trip if I didn't think there was a chance (I'd play)," Spezza told the Senators' official Web site.
The Senators have already lost All-Star right wing Dany Heatley, Spezza's linemate, for up to six weeks with a separated right shoulder in Saturday's 3-2 win over NHL-best Detroit.
Patrick Eaves, who has four goals and four assists in 20 games, is also expected to return Tuesday after missing the last 24 with a separated shoulder.
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson scored his team-leading 29th goal on Sunday, and has nine goals and five assists during a 10-game point streak. Alfredsson has three goals and two assists against the Capitals this season, and 15 goals and nine assists in his last 17 games against them.
Goaltender Ray Emery, who is 6-1-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average since Dec. 5, is expected to be in goal Tuesday after resting against the Islanders. In two games - one start - against the Capitals this season, Emery is 0-2-0 with a 3.22 GAA. He is 3-4-0 with a 2.63 GAA lifetime against Washington.
The Capitals fell to Philadelphia 6-4 on Sunday, losing for just the second time in their last six games.
"There was a lot of try there, but we made too many mistakes," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We talk about it, we look at it, we work on it."
Ovechkin notched his 33rd goal of the season on Sunday in his first game since signing a 13-year, $124 million contract.
Center Michael Nylander added his 200th NHL goal, and has three goals and three assists against the Senators this season.
Olaf Kolzig, who was making his 11th straight start, was pulled in the second period Sunday after stopping just 12-of-16 shots. Kolzig has started each game against Ottawa this season, posting a 3.34 GAA in those contests. He is 4-1-0 with a 3.02 GAA in his last five starts against the Senators after going 0-6-1 with a 4.82 GAA in his previous eight.