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The Ottawa Senators appear to be making small steps of progress through the first two games of their road trip against Pacific Division teams, but still have no wins to show for it. The Senators will try again against the worst team in the West - the Los Angeles Kings - as their trek continues Thursday.
Ottawa (37-24-7) is 1-5-1 in its last seven games after a 3-2 overtime loss at San Jose on Wednesday. Jason Spezza scored both goals for the Senators, who are 1-2-1 since general manager Bryan Murray returned behind the bench after firing John Paddock.
The Senators have lost a season-high four in a row (0-3-1) on the road, their longest such skid since dropping five straight from March 17-April 2, 2000. Despite losing the first two games of this trip, Murray feels his team is closer to regaining its early season edge, when Ottawa raced to a 15-2-0 start.
"I thought we played well defensively, a 2-1 hockey game until late," the coach noted. "We gave up a turnover in the neutral zone and that was the difference in them being able to tie it up. Other than that, I thought we were going to survive and get the two points."
Murray is unsure if captain and right wing Daniel Alfredsson will miss his second straight game due to back spasms. He was cross-checked by Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin in the third period of Monday's 3-1 loss, but is optimistic he will be able to play.
"I moved a little bit better (Wednesday), but it's not good enough to go on the ice," Alfredsson told the Senators' official Web site after missing practice Wednesday in San Jose. "It's a lot better, so hopefully it keeps improving. I don't know if there's a big chance, but I'm hoping it's going to get a lot better by (Thursday) and looser."
Alfredsson, who has team highs of 37 goals and 79 points, has six goals and four assists in 15 lifetime games versus Los Angeles.
The Kings (26-37-5), last in the West with 57 points, are trying to avoid a sixth consecutive loss and had just one point on a recently completed four-game road trip. They lost 3-2 at St. Louis on Tuesday, falling to 2-6-2 in their last 10 games.
To make matters worse, the Kings learned Wednesday that starting goaltender Jason LaBarbera - sidelined since Feb. 18 - will miss the rest of the season after undergoing sports hernia surgery. Veteran Dan Cloutier and Swedish rookie Erik Ersberg will continue to share netminder duties, with coach Marc Crawford likely to give Ersberg - 0-1-2 with a .929 save percentage in his first three starts - more playing time.
"I thought he has played well, his rebound control has been quite good," Crawford said of Ersberg, who made 28 saves Tuesday. "It is unfortunate for him, he has been there and probably deserves to have his first win by now but hasn't gotten it."
The Kings, who have scored 19 goals in their first three games against Northeast Division teams, are 8-1-0 with one tie all-time at home against the Senators. Ottawa's lone win at Los Angeles came Jan. 11, 2000, in a 4-3 victory.