Points at a premium as Senators visit Lightning
SENATORS (28-22-8) at LIGHTNING (24-25-6)
TV: RDS (HD), SNET-E, SUN (HD)
Ottawa 2-6-2; Tampa Bay 6-2-2
This is the third of four season meetings and the first at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Ottawa prevailed in both previous contests, and are 21-6-3 against the Bolts since the 2003-04 season.
The Senators will look to keep reviving their sputtering offence — and keep their suddenly tenuous grip on an Eastern playoff spot — during a midweek, back-to-back in sunny Florida. Awaiting them on Tuesday is the Lightning, whose late-January playoff rumblings have been muted with losses in four of six.
After a 4-1 win over San Jose on Jan. 19, Ottawa endured a stretch of seven losses in a row in which they scored nine goals total. The Sens went some way to erasing those memories with a 4-3 win over Nashville this past Thursday, and came away with a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton on Saturday. Ottawa, which fell from fourth to seventh in the conference over the protracted skid, needs points more than ever before. Right now, they sit just three clear of ninth-place Washington.
Many of Ottawa's all-stars have recently snapped out of slumps. Team goal leader Milan Michalek
twice assisted on Jason Spezza
's goals against Nashville, then broke a 12-game scoring drought with a goal against Edmonton. Captain Daniel Alfredsson
has two goals in three games after being held scoreless in the previous three.
On Saturday, an inspired performance saw the Lightning edget the Buffalo Sabres in their own building 2-1. It was the fewest goals Tampa Bay has allowed in nine games, and the win helped the Lightning stay abreast of Buffalo and eight points outside the playoffs. On Sunday it looked like more of the same, as Steve Downie scored twice in 11 seconds in the first to help the Bolts to an early 2-0 lead in Pittsburgh. From there, unfortunately, things imploded. The Penguins scored four in a 15-minute span to seal it.
That offensive explosion exposed Tampa's most glaring weakness — goaltending. Mathieu Garon surrendered those four goals, and he owns a conference-worst 3.19 goals-against average since the start of the calendar year. His backup, Dwayne Roloson, has a 1-7-1 record and 4.14 GAA over his last 10 starts. He conceded eight goals over two starts to the Senators earlier this year.
Who's Hot: Jason Spezza
carries a three-game points streak (two goals, four assists) into Tuesday’s game. He also has a 10-game points streak against Tampa Bay, with seven goals and seven assists over that span.
Ottawa's Jesse Winchester
has been out with a concussion since Dec. 21. Peter Regin
will miss the rest of the season with left shoulder surgery … Tampa defenceman Matt Gilroy is questionable for Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury, while Dana Tyrell (right knee surgery) and Ryan Malone (upper body) are both on injured reserve.
If you can stop NHL goal leader Steven Stamkos, there's a good chance you can stop Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh held Stamkos to just a single shot on goal Sunday, ending his goal-scoring streak at four games. He was involved on both goals Saturday against Buffalo, scoring one and assisting on the other, as has factored in on all three goals the Lightning have scored against Ottawa so far this season.
"We haven't been playing really good lately. It feels like we're on the right track, though. We've got to move forward and play better as a team for 60 minutes." — Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson