Red-hot teams battle as Sharks play host to Senators
SENATORS (26-16-6) at SHARKS (26-12-5)
TV: SNET-E, TVA, CSN-CA (HD)
Ottawa 8-1-1; San Jose 7-1-2
This is the only meeting of the 2011-12 season between the Senators and Sharks. Antti Niemi's 28-save performance led San Jose to a 4-0 win the last time they faced off, Dec. 2, 2010, in Ottawa. Logan Couture scored a pair of third-period goals.
At age 39, Daniel Alfredsson
has served as Senators captain for more than a decade. On Wednesday, he learned he'll also be wearing the "C" when the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game takes place in his home arena in a little over a week. Not only will Alfredsson get to soak in the adoration of the Ottawa fans, he'll be responsible for assembling the team that goes up against one put together by an ex-teammate, current Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Alfredsson has two points to worry about on Thursday, though, as Ottawa faces a San Jose team that has also lost just once in regulation over its last 10 games.
Alfredsson started Ottawa back from a 2-0 deficit Tuesday night against Ontario rival Toronto by scoring with 7.5 seconds left in the first period. The Senators went on to a 3-2 victory at Air Canada Centre just 24 hours after they were blanked on home ice by the Jets. They were heading down the road toward a similar fate against the Maple Leafs, but after Alfredsson cut the deficit in half Jason Spezza
scored late in the second and Kyle Turris
struck for the game-winner early in the third. Craig Anderson
made 21 of his 37 saves in the second to aid in the comeback.
"Our leaders stepped up," Anderson said. "(Alfredsson) with a big goal at the end of the first, (Spezza) stepping up. Just individuals stepping up when the time calls and just doing the things that they need to do."
Similarly in need of a bounce-back effort after losing to Chicago in its previous game, San Jose needed 65 minutes and then some but eventually squeaked out a 2-1 shootout victory over Calgary on Tuesday. The Sharks trailed by a goal entering the third period, but Torrey Mitchell scored with 9:16 remaining to force overtime. Five minutes of 4-on-4 play didn't break the stalemate, but goals by Michal Handzus and Brent Burns in the penalty-shot tiebreaker made a winner out of Niemi, who finished with 27 saves.
"I think any time you lose it's good to come back and play strong," Burns said. "Obviously we didn't play our best game in Chicago. It was just one of those things. You have to win after you lose."
Spezza, who scored 23 and 21 goals the past two seasons while battling injuries, already has 20 for the Senators after scoring 5 goals in as many games. Anderson has made five straight starts without allowing more than two goals and has a .960 save percentage over that span. … Burns has 1 goal and 4 assists over his last six games for the Sharks, while Mitchell has 1 goal and 2 assists in the last two games.
Ottawa forwards Peter Regin
(shoulder) and Jesse Winchester
(concussion) are on injured reserve. … San Jose forwards Ryane Clowe (face) and Andrew Desjardins (head) are day-to-day. Forward Martin Havlat (hamstring) and defenseman Jim Vandermeer (upper body) and Colin White (lower body) are on injured reserve.
Anderson is 7-1-1 with a .945 save percentage in January, while the Senators are 11-2-2 since acquiring Turris in a trade with the Coyotes. … Burns, a defenseman, is now 5-for-13 in the shootout, but his previous dozen attempts came for the Wild before he was dealt to the Sharks this past offseason.
Alfredsson will be making his sixth career All-Star Game appearance -- tying him with Chara and Calgary's Jarome Iginla for the most among this year's participants. He'll select his team at the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft that kicks off the weekend's festivities on Thursday, Jan. 26.
"I don't know if you can really prepare or do much for it," Alfredsson told the team's website in discussing the player draft. "It's a fun concept. It changes a little bit the tradition of the (All-Star Game). Hopefully, it puts a little more pride into it. You want your guys to do well."