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With the highest-scoring offense in the NHL, it's surprising that the Ottawa Senators have struggled to find the back of net lately.
The Senators hope to solve their scoring woes and salvage a win in the final contest of their four-game road trip when they visit the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
Ottawa (37-25-7) has scored a league-high 219 goals, but has just nine tallies and been shut out three times during a 1-5-1 stretch that began on Feb. 25. The most recent of those shutout losses was a 2-0 defeat at Western Conference-worst Los Angeles on Thursday that dropped the Senators to 0-2-1 on their road swing and into fifth in the East.
"As hard as you play and as well as you play some nights, you have to find a way to score goals," said coach Bryan Murray, who is 1-3-1 since returning to the Senators' bench after firing John Paddock. "We played so hard in the third period and had many chances, but we can't find a way to score a goal."
It hasn't helped that the Senators' leading scorer, Daniel Alfredsson, missed his second straight game because of back spasms. The right wing, with team highs of 37 goals and 79 points, has been out since being cross-checked by Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin on Monday.
The Senators are 1-7-1 this season when Alfredsson is out of the lineup, and he is doubtful to face Phoenix (34-29-5).
"I thought it would just be spasms and settle down in a couple of days and I'd be ready to go, but it hasn't been the case," Alfredsson told the Senators' official Web site after practice on Friday.
Ottawa hopes Alfredsson's possible absence won't affect its recent success against the Coyotes, who are just 2-6-0 in the series since the start of 1999-2000. The Senators posted a 7-2 home victory on Jan. 10, 2006 in the most recent matchup.
Goaltender Martin Gerber, who had 30 saves versus the Kings, is expected to start Saturday. He is 1-2-1 with a 2.75 goals-against while starting Ottawa's last four games, and is 0-1-0 with a tie and a 2.04 GAA in three career appearances against the Coyotes.
He now looks to help the Senators end their season-high five-game road losing streak - their longest since they dropped eight in a row from Feb. 22-April 10, 1996.
The Coyotes lost the opener of their five-game homestand, 4-2 to Montreal on Thursday. Shane Doan and Zbynek Michalek scored for Phoenix, which is 3-4-1 in its last eight games and has lost four of five at Jobing.com Arena.
"To the point where we were up 2-1, I thought we were playing maybe our best game all season," coach Wayne Gretzky said of the Coyotes, who seek their first playoff berth since 2001-02. "We got a little bit undisciplined."
Goaltender Mikael Tellqvist made 16 saves on Thursday, but Gretzky might want Ilya Bryzgalov in the net on Saturday.
Bryzgalov is 3-2-0 with a 1.21 GAA in his last five starts, but has never faced the Senators.
Doan, who leads the Coyotes with 43 assists and 65 points, has three goals during a three-game streak. He has four goals and nine points in 14 games versus Ottawa.