Season series — Third of the annual four-game set. The first two went to the Senators, as have six of the last seven. The Sens' 6-4 win Jan. 13 at Nassau Coliseum is their only win in their last 15 games.
Big story — Not the greatest scenario for either team, as the Senators are trying to break out of a potential season-breaking 1-10-4 slump, while the Islanders' resurgence has fizzled to a 3-8-1 mark in their last 12 games. At least the Sens are getting back Jason Spezza, whose right shoulder injury against the Penguins on Dec. 26 marked the beginning of their current funk.
Senators — A change of venue can't hurt them. The Senators have had trouble winning everywhere, but they have an eight-game home losing streak which will be punctuated by a four-game road trip starting on Long Island. Much of the problem can be traced to offence, as the Sens have scored more than three goals only twice during the 15-game tailspin, six in their last win over the Islanders and five against the Red Wings that were offset by Johan Franzen's five-goal tour de force on Wednesday, a 7-5 Detroit win.
"You can see the effort is there but we're just not finding ways to win games right now," Spezza told the Senators' team website. "So hopefully I can come back and give a little jolt of energy, bring a little positivity to the dressing room and get us off on the right foot."
It will be a challenge. The Senators are 29th in the NHL offensively at 2.19 goals per game.
Islanders — They got a lot of attention in the hockey world when Rick DiPietro and Brent Johnson dropped the gloves. Unfortunately, it was DiPietro who got dropped, both onto the ice and out of the lineup, with facial fractures and a swollen knee expected to keep him down 4-6 weeks.
"It's just continuing to pile on the stuff," DiPietro said. "You don't ever want a broken face being the reason you get extra rest, but you keep telling yourself everything happens for a reason. I don't know what the reason is yet, but you hope at some point it'll come to the surface and make winning the Stanley Cup that much sweeter.
"Listen, I'm sick of losing, our team's sick of losing. You never go into a fight expecting to get your face smashed that hard or with these kind of consequences, but it happens. He landed a good punch, and you move on."
Who's hot — Like his teammates, Michael Grabner was kept off the board in Pittsburgh twice, but those are the only two games in his last 10 in which he has failed to log a point … Ottawa's Erik Karlsson has a three-game point streak. Alex Kovalev had a goal and two assists against Detroit and has four points in his last two games. Peter Regin's goal and two assists ended a 31-game scoring drought. Defenceman Chris Campoli was a healthy scratch in the Sens' last visit to his former stomping grounds on Long Island, but a three-point performance Wednesday has him in the lineup Saturday.
Injury report — Sens goalie Pascal Leclaire (lower body) has been out 18 games without a set return date … On the Island, Trent Hunter (MCL tear) has resumed skating and is looking at a mid-February return. Goalie Nathan Lawson (knee) is due back in late February, while defenceman Milan Jurcina (upper body) has returned to practice and is considered day-to-day.
Stat pack — Spezza had a goal and 3 assists in Ottawa's 4-1 win over the Islanders on Nov. 4 and has eight goals and 15 assists in 23 games versus the Isles. Goaltender Robin Lehner's first NHL win came in the Jan. 13 game at Nassau Coliseum, but Brian Elliott gets the start tonight.
Puck drop — "At this point whatever bad can happen just seems to happen, not just myself, but with the entire team. It's not just small groin pulls and muscle strains where you're out a couple of days, it's blowing out hips and knees and faces and whatever else. It all happens for a reason and the payoff's just going to be that much sweeter when this thing we're building comes to fruition. You might think I'm crazy, but I believe this group of guys is going to be a Stanley Cup winner. You go through all these trials and tribulations and come out stronger as a group." -- DiPietro on the Islanders' and his own recent misfortunes