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Canadiens-Senators Preview

Thursday, 11.20.2008 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators were the NHL's highest-scoring teams last season, but goals have been hard to come by for both of them lately.

The Northeast Division rivals will try to snap out of offensive funks when they meet Thursday in Ottawa, as the Canadiens seek to shut out the Senators for the third straight time.

The Canadiens earned the Eastern Conference's top seed last season due in part to their 257 goals, second-most in the league behind Ottawa's 258.

The Senators (6-9-3) have been among the top three in that category each of the last five seasons, but they seem unlikely to push that streak to six. Their 2.33 goals per game ranks 29th, and they've managed five goals during their five-game losing streak that has dropped them into last place in the Eastern Conference.

The only point they've earned during that span came against the New York Rangers on Monday, when Daniel Alfredsson scored in a 2-1 shootout loss at Madison Square Garden. Ottawa's top line of Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza has 20 goals and 30 assists, but no other Senator has more than three goals.

"We're creating chances and we can't look at the negatives now," Alfredsson said. "There are positives. The efforts we've had the last two games have been good enough to win."

That wasn't the case for Ottawa in its last two matchups with Montreal. The Canadiens' Carey Price stopped 32 shots in a 3-0 win at Scotiabank Place on April 1, and made 28 saves to beat Ottawa 4-0 at home Nov. 11. Montreal has won three straight in the series after losing eight of the previous nine.

While offense has been a big problem for the Senators, goaltending has not. Veteran Alex Auld has recorded five of the team's six wins and ranks in the top 10 in the NHL with a 2.14 goals-against average.

If Auld starts Thursday, he could make things tougher on a Montreal team that has averaged barely two goals while going 2-4-1 in its last seven contests. The Canadiens (10-5-2) averaged 3.5 goals during an 8-1-1 start.

Montreal has scored five goals in the last four games, losing three.

The Canadiens fell 2-1 at Carolina in their most recent game Tuesday, as Price made a career-high 46 saves but was beaten twice in the third period as the Hurricanes rallied.

The Habs ended a four-game, 0-for-20 drought on the power play with Robert Lang's goal, but they're still among the league's worst with the man advantage, converting at 14.8 percent.

"We really (need to) focus on and concentrate on the little details, which is not to worry about points or if you're going to score a goal. For now, we need to win a couple of games 1-0 or 2-1," Montreal winger Alex Kovalev said. "... There are not going to be a lot of goals like there were at the beginning of the season. That's where it starts."

Chris Higgins recorded his first career hat trick in the Nov. 11 victory over Ottawa, but he's been held without a point in four games since.

Ottawa will be without forwards Mike Fisher and Chris Neil for several weeks due to knee injuries. Fisher has two goals and four assists in 16 games, and Neil has two goals and an assist in 17 games.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 06 '09OTT 3 at MTL 2D. Heatley
Mar 19 '09MTL 4 at OTT 5D. Alfredsson
Feb 21 '09OTT 3 at MTL 5P. Brisebois
Jan 17 '09MTL 5 at OTT 4 - SOA. Kovalev
Nov 20 '08MTL 3 at OTT 2 - SOA. Tanguay
Nov 11 '08OTT 0 at MTL 4C. Higgins
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
A. Tanguay188917+61440
S. Koivu1871017+9611
A. Markov1821315+31011
A. Kovalev185914+11012
R. Lang186612+52031
T. Plekanec184610-11010
S. Kostitsyn18369+12220
G. Latendresse18268+31900
C. Higgins12437+1401
A. Kostitsyn16246+61200
R. Hamrlik17235+31800
F. Bouillon13213+41801
J. Gorges18033+5400
R. O'Byrne15033-11400
P. Brisebois14112+2610
T. Kostopoulos14112+03300
M. Lapierre15101-31300
M. Komisarek14101+33300
S. Begin9101-11100
M. Dandenault12011-1200
G. Laraque10000-42400
K. Chipchura1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
C. Price149-4-1354362.51.920
J. Halak52-1-1111322.46.917
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
D. Heatley1911819-22072
D. Alfredsson1841418+2430
J. Spezza196915-1811
F. Kuba1911415+51010
A. Picard19257+0020
M. Fisher16246-41101
N. Foligno19325-111210
S. Donovan18325+41200
J. Ruutu17235+23100
A. Vermette19224-61410
C. Kelly19134-2601
J. Winchester19134-3400
A. Volchenkov19213-41401
C. Neil17213-55000
D. McAmmond19123+2400
C. Schubert14123-51210
C. Phillips19022-81200
B. Lee5022+1000
J. Smith19000-31600
I. Zubov3000-1000
B. Bell2000+0000
L. Richardson2000-3200
R. Shannon1000+0000
C. Bass1000+0500
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
A. Auld135-5-3283742.12.925
M. Gerber61-4-1191863.17.898