Alfredsson returns for Sens against Habs
SENATORS (23-21-4) at CANADIENS (23-21-4)
Last 10 —
Ottawa 4-6-0; Montreal 6-3-1
Season series —
This is the fourth of six meetings between the two clubs. The Senators have the lead in the series with a 3-1 win on Oct. 17 and a 4-2 victory on Dec. 28. The Canadiens took a 4-1 decision on Dec. 8. In the most recent matchup in late December, Benoit Pouliot scored his first goal as a Canadien, Mike Cammalleri scored the Habs' 20,000th all-time goal, and Ottawa got goals from some of their unlikely scorers, Peter Regin
, Ryan Shannon
, Chris Neil
and Chris Campoli.
Big story —
The Sens and the Habs have identical records with 50 points each and currently hold the last two playoffs spots in the Eastern Conference. The Senators have the edge, having won more games in the season series thus far. One of these two teams could potentially be on the outside looking in come Saturday night if the Flyers, in ninth with 49 points, pick up a victory.
When three of your top forwards are out with injuries, the last thing a team needs is to lose a goaltender. The Senators were right in the middle of that crisis Thursday at their morning skate when goaltender Pascal Leclaire
suffered a concussion after taking a shot to his head. Backup Brian Elliott
had been sick with the stomach flu all day, so the Sens were left with calling up Mike Brodeur from Binghamton of the AHL.
Perhaps it was meant to be, as the rookie goaltender gave the Senators a 32-save performance to shut out the Rangers in a 2-0 victory. The 25-year-old improved his NHL record to 2-0-0 and recorded his first shutout. Campoli scored with 74 seconds left in the third to break a 0-0 tie and Chris Kelly
sealed it with an empty-netter. It was sweet relief for the Senators, who snapped a five-game losing streak.
"It was a great game for our team," Leclaire said. "We needed that -- we're not in the best situation and hopefully, that win can help us get back on track. (Brodeur) had a long day. It was great for him to come in and play that way. It gave us a little boost and we were able to win."
The offence showed a bit more of a spark Thursday in a 5-3 win over the Stars. While the Cammalleri-Tomas Plekanec line could still use a speedy winger that can keep up, Cammalleri broke a four-game pointless streak with a goal and an assist. But it was really the second line — or should we call it the first line? — of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, and Pouliot that had the most success. Pouliot had a goal and an assist, while Gionta scored twice in his 500th career game. Right wing Georges Laraque also found the back of the net on his first shot of the season for his first goal in a Canadiens jersey.
"The guys played well," said goalie Carey Price, who made 33 saves. "They kept putting pucks to the net and we got to those second chances. Gionta's goal was a classic example -- throw it on net, get a rebound, put it in."
Who's hot —
Pouliot's goal against the Stars was his fifth in eight games and it was his first multi-point game with the Canadiens. Gionta has had three goals in the last three games, while Gomez has four points in his last three games.
The Senators' Alex Kovalev
has had moments of brilliance in the last few weeks and could do well against his former team. The right wing had a beautiful pass to Campoli for the winning goal Thursday.
Injury report —
As noted, Leclaire is out with a concussion, while center Jason Spezza
(torn right MCL), left wing Milan Michalek
(head) and centre Jesse Winchester
(right knee) are all on the injured reserve. The Sens do get a bit of good news, as both captain Daniel Alfredsson
(separated left shoulder) and defenceman Filip Kuba
(upper body) will return to the lineup against the Habs.
Sergei Kostitsyn (left sprained ankle) skated this week for the Canadiens, but is unlikely to play, while brother Andrei Kostitsyn (left knee surgery) isn't expected to return until after the Olympics.
Stat Pack —
Montreal's Glen Metropolit recorded his 100th career assist against the Stars, while Price recorded his fourth career assist.
Puck Drop —
Brodeur's shutout win earned him a second straight start tonight. He's only allowed one goal in his two previous NHL starts, including the blanking of the Rangers. He was also between the pipes for a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 19 in his league debut.