Last 10: Ottawa 5-4-1; Toronto 6-4-0
Season Series: Third of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. Each team has won a one-goal game on its home ice this season. Phil Kessel had a hat trick on Oct. 8 and the Maple Leafs survived a five-goal third by the Senators for a 6-5 victory. Ottawa responded for a 3-2 triumph on Oct. 30 as Kaspars Daugavins' first NHL goal proved decisive.
Big Story: Kessel hasn't slowed down yet and neither have the Maple Leafs, despite their uncertain situation in net. Kessel continued to maintain the league lead in goals (12) and points (23) entering Friday night's action, and his team headed into the weekend holding down first place in the division in spite of the fact No. 1 goalie James Reimer hasn't played in three weeks. Ben Scrivens and Jonas Gustavsson are holding down the fort in his absence, with the former getting the start tonight.
Senators: Despite losing its first four games to start the month, Ottawa was playing competitive hockey, only getting outscored by a combined five goals. There wasn't much to like about the Senators' fifth consecutive defeat, however, as they were throttled 5-1 by the Sabres on Friday. Two quick goals in the first 2:25 spelled an early end to Craig Anderson's night, and although Sergei Gonchar netted a power-play goal shortly after Alex Auld relieved, the backup was victimized for three additional scores by Buffalo.
"They're probably one of the best teams around the net," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who returned after missing five games with a concussion. "That's the difference (last) night, I think. We were not as good as we needed to be in front of their net and they made the most of their opportunities."
Maple Leafs: Following a brief and disastrous two-game homestand in which Toronto got outscored 12-1 by Boston and Florida, the Maple Leafs went on the road and picked up a key two points Thursday by prevailing 3-2 over the Blues in a shootout. Scrivens allowed Patrik Berglund's game-tying goal with 1:56 left in regulation, but was flawless on three St. Louis attempts in the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Kessel, who along with John-Michael Liles scored in the first period for the Leafs, then netted the only goal of the shootout to decide the game.
"A win's a win," Liles said. "It's good to get back to winning ways. It's a tough team over there. They battled hard and (Scrivens) played well for us down the stretch."
Who's Hot: Kessel now has goals in consecutive games for the Leafs after going four without one, the only stretch this season where he's gone more than one game without lighting the lamp.
Injury Report: Ottawa forward Chris Neil missed Friday's game with an ankle injury. Forward Peter Regin (shoulder) and defenceman Matt Carkner (knee) are on injured reserve … Toronto defenceman Mike Komisarek (undisclosed) is questionable to play. Forward Tim Connolly is sidelined with an upper-body injury. Reimer (head) and forwards Colby Armstrong (ankle) and Nazem Kadri (knee) are on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson picked up his 14th assist Friday, tying Brian Campbell of the Panthers for the NHL lead among blueliners, but he was also a minus-3 for the night … A shootout specialist, Kessel's decisive goal for the Leafs on Thursday was the 13th of his career.
Puck Drop: Ottawa began a six-game road stretch Friday and will play nine of its next 10 away from Scotiabank Place. If the team's 1-5-0 start signified an early crossroads, another one may be upon them.
"I thought the difference in the game was they went to the net way harder than we did and with more determination," coach Paul MacLean said after the Buffalo loss. "I think it's a step back because of the score, but it's also something we can learn from."