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SENATORS (10-9-2) at PENGUINS (12-6-4)
TV: SNET-East, TVA; ROOT (HD)
LAST 10: Ottawa 4-4-2; Pittsburgh 4-4-2
Season Series: It's the first of four meetings this season. Pittsburgh won three of four last season, including both games at the Consol Energy Center.
Big Story: The Penguins welcomed their 25,000,000th fan on Wednesday, but a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis spoiled the holiday mood of the sellout crowd that turned out for Sidney Crosby's second game back since January. The Senators have had four days off after going 2-0-1 on a swing through Western Canada; the only demerit came Sunday, when they lost 2-1 in overtime at Vancouver.
Senators: The four-day break between Sunday's game in Vancouver and Friday's visit to Pittsburgh was more than welcomed by the weary Senators.
"It's good to get a few days of good practice to get the legs going and to get back to normal time again, at least for a few days here," captain Daniel Alfredsson told the team's website. "It's a good week for us."
Since starting 1-5-0, the Senators are 9-4-2 and are 3-1-1 as they enter the finale of a six-game road swing.
"It's a good opportunity for us," coach Paul MacLean said of the break. "It's a good practice window for us of three days, and we're going to take advantage of it. We can continue to progress in our game and do some work on special teams ... just build on the foundation we have and keep improving on what we do."
Penguins: With the euphoria of Crosby's return on Monday gone, the Penguins had to grind to get a point against the stubborn Blues. Pittsburgh overcame a pair of one-goal deficits but came up short when Alex Pietrangelo scored in OT.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who kept his team in the game with 40 saves, said the Penguins' refusal to quit after twice going down a goal was an encouraging sign.
"I think it says we've got character in the room. We've got guys that can step up," he said of the team's never-say-die attitude. "I'm just trying to keep the score low, I know with the guys we have here, we can get some goals and they did that in the third."
Who's Hot: Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson has won his last three starts, allowing just five goals on 96 shots. Jason Spezza has three assists in the last two games. … Evgeni Malkin has back-to-back two-point games for the Penguins. Crosby was held without a point on Wednesday, but has four points in his first two games.
Injury Report: Ottawa forward Chris Neil is still sidelined with a high ankle sprain, though he's started skating again. Defenceman Matt Carkner (knee) and forward Peter Regin (shoulder) are on IR … Pittsburgh is without forward Dustin Jeffrey (knee) and defenceman Ben Lovejoy (wrist).
Stat Pack: Ottawa spent some of its down time working on the power play — the Senators are 2-for-30 in their last nine games. Through the first quarter of the season, the Senators are the only team to get a game-winning goal in the final five seconds; they did it twice in less than a week last month … James Neal's goal on Wednesday means that he has scored in nine of the Penguins' 10 home games.
Puck Drop: The Penguins figure to draw their 221st consecutive sellout crowd for Friday's game. Sellout No. 220 came Wednesday, with bar-code technology determining that Tom Mimidis of Charleroi, Pa., was the 16,147th fan through the gates, making him the 25,000,000th fan in team history. He won a trip to a Pens road game and an autographed Crosby jersey. The team's overall attendance since 1967, including playoffs, is now 25,002,436.
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