Streaks at stake as Senators play host to Devils
DEVILS (34-15-1) at SENATORS (28-21-4)
New Jersey 5-5-0; Ottawa 6-4-0
Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The Devils have won all three matchups with the Senators this season and nine straight overall since falling 4-1 on Oct. 27, 2007, which was their first game at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. In the first game played in Ottawa this season, New Jersey rallied from a two-goal deficit with three power-play goals. They followed up that 3-2 win with victories of 3-1 and 4-2 at home.
If the Devils want to run their winning streak against the Senators to double digits, they figure to face their stiffest test yet. Ottawa has won six consecutive games and, with the return of Jason Spezza
to the lineup Saturday against Boston, now has all of its big guns back.
"We've got some key players back and our system is being executed very well and teams are having trouble with that," goaltender Brian Elliott
said. "Our effort level is so far up there and everybody is just feeding off it."
Goals have been somewhat hard to come by of late for New Jersey, which is only .500 for its last 10 games, but the Devils managed to generate them when it counted Saturday night on Long Island. Zach Parise scored a power-play goal late in the second period to tie the score, defenceman Bryce Salvador came up with the game-winner off a point shot in the third and Parise added an empty-netter for a 4-2 win over the Islanders.
"It was definitely a much-needed win and a great feeling to win," Salvador said. "Our team played really well the whole night and we obviously didn’t get discouraged when we gave up two quick power-play goals. There's a lot of character on this team to pull this one off."
It wasn't long ago that Ottawa was dealing with not only a five-game losing streak, but the fact Spezza, captain Daniel Alfredsson
and Milan Michalek
, another top forward, were all out of the lineup with injuries. Spezza missed the longest amount of time -- 20 games with a knee injury -- but as his occasional linemates did, he scored in his first game back, netting the decisive goal in a 2-1 Senators' win over the Bruins on Saturday.
"I knew the guys were playing well, we went through a real tough stretch and we kind of got things together a bit, so I wanted to play well," Spezza said.
Parise has three goals and an assist during a three-game point streak for the Devils. Jamie Langenbrunner has a goal and three assists in his last two games. Travis Zajac had three assists against the Islanders, while Salvador added an assist along with his game-winning goal for a rare multi-point effort.
Elliott was named the NHL's first star of the past week after he won all four of his starts with a .957 save percentage. Alfredsson has taken over the Senators' scoring lead with 40 points. He has five goals and four assists in five games since returning from a separated shoulder. Alex Kovalev
has a goal and six assists during a six-game points streak.
Forward Dainius Zubrus will return to the New Jersey lineup after missing 30 games due to a broken kneecap. Defenceman Paul Martin (broken arm) and forwards Rod Pelley (lower body), Patrik Elias (concussion) and David Clarkson (leg) are all on injured reserve.
Defenceman Anton Volchenkov hopes to return from an upper-body injury to play for Ottawa. That would leave just goalie Pascal Leclaire
(concussion) and forward Jesse Winchester
(knee) on the sidelines.
The Devils have outscored the Senators 31-16 during their current win streak. Martin Brodeur has six of those victories, with a 1.80 goals-against average … Ottawa is on its best run since taking eight straight from Oct. 13-Nov. 6, 2007.
"We know it's a dogfight," Senators forward Nick Foligno
said. "You look at the standings and I don't think there's much room for error. There's not too many points separating us from being out of a playoff spot. We know all the points count right now and it's just a matter of continuing to play the way we are right now (and) giving ourselves a chance to win.
"If we're doing what we need to do, most nights we're going to be on the good side of the scoreboard. We've just got to continue that."