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SENATORS (18-14-4) at PENGUINS (25-11-1)
Last 10 — Ottawa 5-5-0; Pittsburgh 7-2-1
Season series — This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season. On Oct. 12, Tyler Kennedy scored twice and Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves to lead Pittsburgh to a 4-1 road win. Bill Guerin and Jordan Staal also scored for the Penguins, who won their third in a row to remain undefeated on the road. Milan Michalek scored for Ottawa. On Nov. 19, Chris Phillips scored twice and Pascal Leclaire made 25 saves to lead the Senators to a 6-2 home win. Michalek scored his 100th career goal and Matt Carkner, Chris Kelly and Jonathan Cheechoo also found the net for Ottawa.
Big story — Both teams are coming off shutout losses on home ice Monday night. The Senators should receive a boost with the return of goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who has been out since Nov. 23 with a fractured cheekbone. In his absence, backup Brian Elliott started 15 of 16 games. Forwards Chris Neil and Shean Donovan are also back from knee injuries.
Senators — This is the start of a two-game road trip for Ottawa that concludes with a visit to Buffalo on Saturday. On Monday, the Senators were shut out 2-0 against Boston at Scotiabank Place"I think both teams played really well, the whole game obviously," Elliott told the Ottawa Citizen. "They scored on a couple of plays that we've got to eliminate so we can win the game. We had a few chances, but I don't think we tested (Bruins goalie) Timmy (Thomas) as much as we could."
Captain Daniel Alfredsson has now gone 12 games without a goal dating back to Nov. 28. "When you lose, you never do enough," Alfredsson said. "You can always do more. We know they're a team that plays low-scoring games every night and that first goal was going to be huge and we weren't able to get it."
Penguins — This is the second of a three-game homestand for Pittsburgh. It began with a 4-0 loss against New Jersey on Monday and concludes with a visit from Toronto on Sunday.
In the loss against the Devils, Pittsburgh allowed three second-period goals as Martin Brodeur blanked them for his NHL-record 104th shutout. "I actually thought we controlled the first period," captain Sidney Crosby told the Tribune Review. "We just had a bad second period, and they had a great second period. That was the difference."
"I liked our third period," Crosby added. "It would have been easy to go out there and not play the way we're supposed to and give in. But I don't think guys did that. They played hard the whole third period. I think it carried over in (Tuesday's) practice and we had a good practice. We know we, for whatever reason, had a lull in the second period and that was the difference in the game. But guys came to work here today and we'll try to rebound (Wednesday vs. Ottawa)."
Mark Eaton had been the only member of Pittsburgh's top six defencemen to play in every game until he missed Monday's contest with a lower-body injury. Coach Dan Bylsma believes the injury isn't long-term, though Eaton did have an MRI. "He's being evaluated by our doctors," Bylsma said. "It's not long term at this point, but we still need our doctors to take a look at him." He is questionable for Wednesday's game.
Who's hot — For the Senators, Chris Kelly has three assists in four games, Jarkko Ruutu has two goals in three games, Alex Kovalev has two assists in three games, and Jonathan Cheechoo has two assists in three games. For the Penguins, Crosby has two goals and four assists in five games, and Chris Kunitz has a goal and two assists in three games.
Stat pack — Pittsburgh recorded 25 wins in its first 36 games of this season (25-10-1), marking the fastest pace in franchise history the team hit the 25-win mark. The Pens' best previous mark was 37 games, accomplished on three occasions (1992-93, '94-95 and '95-96) ... The Senators (18-14-4) didn't record their 18th win last season until Feb. 7. It was also head coach Cory Clouston's third game — and first NHL victory — after taking over for the fired Craig Hartsburg.
Puck drop -- "I think this year, in particular, we have had some losses we have had to respond to at different times. We have done that. We treat every game the same way. How did we do and what did we do well? What can we improve on? We got beat in a couple of areas last game and you address them in practice and then you move on to the next game. We get that (Wednesday) with Ottawa." — Penguins coach Dan Bylsma