Season Series: This is the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between the Avalanche and Senators. Wojtek Wolski scored 1:20 into overtime as Colorado won the most recent matchup, 3-2 at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Feb. 17. Ryan Shannon scored both goals for Ottawa in that contest.
Big Story: Colorado begins a stretch in which it plays three straight and six of its next seven on the road while leading the Northwest Division by three points over Calgary and four over Vancouver. Ottawa, meanwhile, is hanging tough in the Northeast despite playing without two of its top players in captain Daniel Alfredsson and No. 1 centre Jason Spezza. The Avalanche are respectful of what the Senators have done without a couple of key cogs.
"I think a lot of times it can make a team more dangerous when they're missing their top guys," said defenceman John-Michael Liles. "In those cases, everybody seems to kind of pick up the slack. They've done a great job with some of their guys out of the lineup. I think it speaks to how deep they are as a team."
Avalanche: Chris Stewart scored a pair of third-period goals as Colorado came out of the Christmas break looking sharp with a 4-1 win over Dallas on Saturday. The Avs have managed to play fairly consistent hockey following a red-hot start, answering any minor slump with a subsequent hot streak, and that has allowed them to retain the division lead over a pair of tough challengers in the Flames and Canucks.
Peter Budaj, named to Slovakia's preliminary roster for the upcoming Winter Olympics, stepped in for an under-the-weather Craig Anderson and stopped 39 shots to beat the Stars.
"Absolutely outstanding," Anderson said in describing Budaj's performance to the Denver Post. "He's been great all year for us. Anytime he's got in there he's done the job. The guys have confidence in him, and he's shown why he's here."
Senators: Following an 8-2 pasting at the hands of Pittsburgh last Wednesday, Ottawa has responded with a pair of character wins, taking a shootout in Buffalo and following that up with a 4-2 home win over Montreal on Monday, a game the Senators trailed 2-0 after the first 10 minutes. They snapped the Canadiens' four-game winning streak and moved three points ahead of them in the division.
Mike Fisher, whose shot was tipped in by Chris Neil for the go-ahead goal, credited the play of goalie Pascal Leclaire, who made 29 saves and kept the Senators in the game after the Canadiens struck early.
"(Leclaire) played great," Fisher said. "He made a number of big stops and had a great game for us and kept us in it. If it wasn't for him, especially after that first period, we would have been down by more than a few."
Who's Hot: Stewart has four goals in as many games for Colorado. Paul Stastny has a goal and four assists during a four-game points streak. Wolski has two goals and three assists in his last four games. Stastny leads the team with 39 points while Wolski has 38.
Neil, who returned just before Christmas after missing a month with a knee injury, has goals in two straight games for Ottawa. Leclaire, who also missed significant time recovering from a fractured cheekbone, has won consecutive starts in goal and will be back between the pipes tonight.
Injury Report: The Avalanche activated defenceman Kyle Cumiskey (foot) off injured reserve and he is likely to play Wednesday. Forward Marek Svatos (groin) has also been cleared to play, but might be held back another game. Forward David Jones (torn left ACL) and defenceman Ruslan Salei (back) remain out.
Alfredsson (separated shoulder) and Spezza (torn right MCL) are out long-term for the Senators. But forward Nick Foligno returns tonight after having arthroscopic knee surgery on Dec. 18.
Stat Pack: At the 2006 Torino Olympics, Budaj posted a 2-1-0 mark with a 2.01 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in three starts for Slovakia. He has played in 10 games for Colorado this season, going 4-3-1 with a 2.22 GAA and .927 save percentage.
Puck Drop: While the Avalanche got all the early attention, this has also been a nice bounce-back year for the Senators under coach Cory Clouston. Both teams will attempt to keep their recent positive momentum going.