Senators try to snap skid in road trip opener
SENATORS (36-25-5) at OILERS (21-38-6)
Ottawa 5-4-1; Edmonton 3-7-0.
Second and final meeting of the regular season between these teams. Ottawa won 4-3 at Scotiabank Place on Nov. 10 as Jason Spezza
scored the decisive shootout goal.
Break up the Oilers! Seriously, though, as a difficult season in Edmonton winds down, Pat Quinn and his troops have some reason to smile after consecutive wins over Minnesota and New Jersey, each impressive in its own right. The Wild are in desperate need of points as they chase a Western Conference playoff berth, while the Devils are fighting for first place in the Atlantic Division.
This is Ottawa's fourth game out of the Olympic break and the Senators are still looking for their first win. The offence has been sluggish since NHL play resumed, with the team managing just one goal in each of its three previous games. That includes a 2-1 shootout loss on Saturday to visiting Toronto, the basement team in the Eastern Conference.
"It was a tough game," said forward Chris Neil
, who scored the lone goal despite being one of several Senators affected by a flu bug that recently hit the team. "I didn't know if I was going to be able to play tonight but the guys battled through it and we were able to get a point out of it, but it would have been nice to get two."
Jeff Deslauriers probably wishes he could play the Devils every game. The second-year Edmonton netminder has allowed just one goal in two career starts against New Jersey, and on Sunday he recorded his third shutout of the season in a 2-0 win at Rexall Place. Gilbert Brule and Marc Pouliot scored the goals. This is the best run for the Oilers since a five-game winning streak to begin the month of December.
"What we had before was a bit more of a negative situation, but the break just cut the mood and everybody had a time to relax and refresh their mind," Deslauriers said. "After the break we came here, we started working hard, and we changed a bit our system. Everybody had to be on the same page and now it's getting better. Everybody is more comfortable in it and we just have to work together to win hockey games."
Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire
had perhaps his best performance of the season with a 30-save effort against Toronto … Brule has two goals and three assists in his last five games and is now tied for second on the team with 14 goals. Deslauriers has stopped 50-of-51 shots over his last two starts.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
and forward Peter Regin
missed Saturday's game with the flu but should be good to go tonight, while defenceman Filip Kuba
(lower body) didn't make the trip. Forward Nick Foligno
(broken leg) and defenceman Chris Campoli (knee) are on injured reserve, though the former could join his teammates later this week.
Edmonton forward Ethan Moreau (neck) is day-to-day. Recently-acquired forward Ryan Jones tore his MCL and is likely to miss the rest of the season. Defencemen Ladislav Smid (neck) and Sheldon Souray (hand) and forwards Ales Hemsky (shoulder) and Jean-Francois Jacques (back) have already been ruled out for the season. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back) and forward Ryan Stone (knee) are out indefinitely.
Ottawa forward Mike Fisher
leads the team in game-winning goals this season with six and in shots with 176. His 20 goals are one behind Milan Michalek
for the team lead … Ryan Whitney has been a minutes eater since arriving in Edmonton. The defenceman led the team with 26:20 of ice time against Minnesota and 25:46 against New Jersey.
The Senators made sure an important piece of their future will be staying put by signing 22-year-old defenceman Brian Lee
to a new two-year contract on Monday, preventing him from becoming a restricted free agent at season’s end.
"It feels great," said Lee, who has four goals and 17 points in 77 career games. "Now I don't have to worry about anything but having fun, working hard and playing hockey … It takes some of the pressure off."