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Senators-Canadiens Preview

Monday, 04.06.2009 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

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Senators-Canadiens Preview
Ottawa Senators vs. Montréal Canadiens

When things were looking bleak for the Montreal Canadiens two weeks ago, veteran Alex Kovalev raised his play to carry the team and restore their confidence.

Kovalev looks to help the Canadiens continue their surge towards the playoffs and win their fourth straight game Monday night against the Ottawa Senators.

With the playoffs a week away, seventh-place Montreal (41-27-10) has a three-point lead over the eighth-place New York Rangers and is within three points of fourth in the Eastern Conference.

The Canadiens are coming off a 6-2 victory over Toronto on Saturday and have been tough to slow down lately.

Montreal is outscoring its opponents 15-4 during a three-game winning streak and is 5-0-1 since March 24. The Canadiens' power play has been instrumental in the last six games, going 13-for-35 (37.1 percent).

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"We're trying to grab as many points as we can and move up the standings," Montreal forward Chris Higgins. "The confidence in the room is back - that's pretty obvious to tell. I think we've got four games left here and if we continue to play the way we've been playing the last couple games, then we'll have the right mind-set for the playoffs."

While the Canadiens are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth, things didn't look as promising a few weeks ago.

On March 21, Montreal suffered a 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs to drop its fifth straight (0-3-2) and fall to eighth in the East.

The Canadiens broke out of their funk with a 6-3 win over Atlanta on March 24 behind two goals and an assist from Kovalev.

Kovalev had a goal and three assists Saturday and has been red-hot lately. The 16-year veteran has seven goals and eight assists in Montreal's last six games after having two goals and no assists in his previous eight.

"I'm probably playing as good as I have been all year," Kovalev said. "Like I've said many times, sometimes you try to do too much on your own instead of using your partners. Right now I kind of know more about the players that I'm playing with."

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak could make his third consecutive start Monday in place of Carey Price, who has the flu.

Halak made 34 saves Saturday after turning aside 26 shots in Thursday's 5-1 win over the New York Islanders. He is 2-1-0 with a 2.98 goals-against average in three games versus the Senators (34-34-10) this season.

The Canadiens are 4-1-0 against Ottawa with their only loss coming during their slump three weeks ago.

The Senators are going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96, but are still trying to have an impact on the postseason.

Ottawa is coming off Saturday's 4-3 shootout victory over Philadelphia, one of the teams in the mix for the fourth spot in the East.

Jason Spezza scored his 31st goal 3:47 into the third period to tie the score at 3 and Mike Fisher scored the winner in the fifth round of the shootout.

"It's always nice to score like that," Fisher said. "We didn't quit. We got behind and Spezza got a nice one to get back in it and that's a pretty good team."

Alex Auld made 31 saves against the Flyers, winning for the second time in his last six starts. He is 0-2-1 with a 3.00 GAA versus Montreal this season.

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
D. Alfredsson77245074+72083
J. Spezza79314071-1277123
D. Heatley79373370-1080145
F. Kuba6833639+72820
N. Foligno78171532-75972
M. Fisher75121931+16413
C. Campoli73111930-155324
A. Vermette6291928-124220
M. Comrie60101727-123221
C. Kelly79111122-93601
C. Phillips7961521-136600
B. Bell5061521-32451
R. Shannon3281119-2231
J. Ruutu7561319-314200
J. Winchester7331215-22801
A. Picard476814-2861
B. Lee5021012-32911
S. Donovan645510+03201
C. Neil573710-1214000
A. Volchenkov65279-103601
D. McAmmond44347+21602
C. Schubert47235-62610
P. Regin11112+0201
I. Zubov10022-1000
J. Smith63101-34701
C. Bass12000-21500
L. Richardson2000-3200
M. Carkner1000+0000
J. Hennessy1000+0000
Z. Smith1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
B. Elliott3016-7-3737572.72.904
A. Auld4115-18-69710762.50.910
M. Gerber144-9-1403972.86.899
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
A. Kovalev75253964-272104
A. Markov78125264-23673
S. Koivu62163349+64255
A. Tanguay48162541+153453
A. Kostitsyn71231740-45062
T. Plekanec77201939-65462
R. Lang50182139+63683
M. Schneider6582331-116452
R. Hamrlik7852631+65600
M. Lapierre76151328+107112
G. Latendresse53141125+54512
S. Kostitsyn5681523-36451
J. Gorges7841923+173320
C. Higgins54121022+02221
T. Kostopoulos7581422-210400
M. D'Agostini5010919-151621
P. Brisebois6151318-31941
G. Metropolit7361016-52810
M. Pacioretty343811-32710
S. Begin426410-52701
M. Dandenault383710+61500
M. Komisarek632810+310900
F. Bouillon54549-75301
R. O'Byrne35055-64400
K. Chipchura13033-6500
G. Laraque32022-66100
G. Stewart19011-43200
D. Janik14011-3200
B. Maxwell7000-1200
A. Henry2000-21000
Y. Weber1000+0200
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
C. Price4923-14-913213952.77.905
J. Halak3418-14-19210772.86.915
M. Denis10-0-0173.00.857