Senators face test from Southeast-leading Lightning
LIGHTNING (24-12-5) at SENATORS (16-19-6)
TV: CBC, SUN (HD)
Tampa Bay 7-2-1; Ottawa 3-3-4
First of four meetings this season, but the final three don't come until March. The home team won each game during the 2009-10 slate, with Steven Stamkos of the Lightning leading all scorers with four goals. Milan Michalek
paced the Senators with three goals, courtesy of a hat trick in a 7-1 win on Oct. 15, 2009.
Tampa Bay begins play Saturday atop the Southeast Division, with a one-point lead over pre-season favorite Washington. The Lightning hoped to have solved their goaltending issues with a trade for veteran Dwayne Roloson, but he was shelled along with the rest of the team in an 8-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Roloson couldn't have produced two more diverse performances after Tampa Bay acquired him from the New York Islanders. He turned in a 34-save shutout effort in a 1-0 overtime win over Washington in a battle for the division lead on Tuesday, then less than 24 hours later he was pulled after allowing three goals on the first seven Pittsburgh shots. But Dan Ellis didn't fare much better in relief, so Roloson returned to play the second period before Ellis handled the third. All in all, it was a night to forget for the Lightning.
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"It's playing to an identity and the way we play our game, and doing that consistently," forward Martin St. Louis said. "Every game during the last month, we've been giving ourselves a chance and we've had great results."
Michalek made sure Ottawa didn't come away empty-handed Friday night in Chicago, but the Senators couldn't steal the second point in a 3-2 shootout defeat to the defending Stanley Cup champions. Patrick Kane scored 7:50 into the third to put the Blackhawks in front, but Michalek forced overtime by scoring an extra-attacker goal with 1:25 left. Brian Elliott
returned to the net only to be victimized by both Kane and Jonathan Toews in the penalty-shot tie-breaker.
"We did a lot of good things out there against a team that played with some desperation," coach Cory Clouston said. "We didn't throw in the towel, (did) a good job coming back, but obviously we're disappointed that we didn't get that extra point."
The checking line has been producing much of the offense for the Lightning of late, as Nate Thompson and Dana Tyrell each have one goal and two assists over the last three games … Captain Daniel Alfredsson
has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak for the Senators.
Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith is sidelined with a knee injury, while defenceman Randy Jones is day-to-day with an upper-body injury … Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire
(lower body) and centre Jason Spezza
(shoulder) are out indefinitely.
By the time Sidney Crosby returns from a concussion, Stamkos could eclipse him for the NHL goal-scoring lead. Crosby has 32 and Stamkos 31 as play begins Saturday. Crosby has a 10-point lead over Stamkos, 66-56, in the overall scoring race … Jarkko Ruutu
is the only regular on the Senators with a plus rating this season. Ruutu is a plus-2 in 39 games.
Ottawa got an important piece to its team back Friday against Chicago, but it wasn't a player. Assistant coach Luke Richardson rejoined the club after taking time away from hockey following the death of his daughter, Daron, in November.
"What it means, hopefully, is that they as a family have come some way in dealing with this," Alfredsson said of the Richardsons. "I don't think you'll ever get over something like that, but it's good to see him. We know what a great guy he was, being a part of us as a player and coach before, and always a positive attitude in the locker room or at the rink."