PREDATORS (32-17-5) at SENATORS (27-22-7)
TV: FS-Tennessee, SNET-East
LAST 10: Nashville 7-2-1; Ottawa 2-7-1
Season Series: This is the only matchup this season between two teams that haven't met in more than a year. In their last matchup on Dec. 23, 2010, Nick Foligno scored the game-winner and Brian Elliott made 25 saves for the Sens in a 2-1 win. The last time these teams played in Ottawa was Oct. 22, 2009. In that game, Shea Weber scored the overtime winner in a 6-5 Preds win.
Big Story: Last month, both teams were poised to make a spirited run toward the playoffs. But since then, the Senators and Predators have gone in different directions. Nashville is on a 6-1-1 run that includes five division wins. Those five wins, all in regulation, are huge in a Central Division that boasts four likely playoff teams. Ottawa, on the other hand, has lost seven straight games, a disappointing streak considering the Senators started January with a 8-1-1 run. Blueliner Chris Phillips plays his 1,000th career NHL game for Ottawa tonight.
Predators: Nashville posted an impressive 11-2-0 record in January but did little more than tread water in the NHL's best division -- one in which four teams have more points than two of the league's division leaders. After a big win against division rival St. Louis on Saturday, the Predators hoped to continue their hot play against the Canucks Tuesday night.
The Predators got off to a rough start against Vancouver, falling behind 3-1 due in large part to goals from Byron Bitz and Daniel Sedin scored just 23 seconds apart. But Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher replied in the second, finding the back of the net in a 62-second span to get the Predators even. The third period and overtime solved nothing and Alex Edler beat Pekka Rinne in the sixth round of the shootout, sealing an 4-3 win in which the teams combined for 71 shots, 40 by Nashville.
Senators: Ottawa's seven-game slide has mostly undone the earlier run that put the Senators squarely in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. When the Senators started February with a season-long five-game road trip, the hope was the team could rebound from a 2-4-0 road trip that closed out January. But any hope of a resurgence was dashed when Ottawa started the homestand 0-2-1, scoring two goals along the way.
After a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Senators welcomed former teammate Brian Elliott and the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. Against the Blues, Ottawa fell behind early when St. Louis scored twice in the opening 3:49, compelling coach Paul MacLean to play backup goaltender Alex Auld after Craig Anderson allowed two goals on four shots. The move would inspire the Senators, who got a goal from Daniel Alfredsson and outshot the Sens 12-5 in the second period. But David Perron's second goal of the game effectively iced a 3-1 Blues victory in which Ottawa outshot St. Louis 29-18.
Who's Hot: Mike Fisher has been leading the Predators' offence with eight goals in his last eight games. Martin Erat has five points in his last four games … For the Sens, Alfredsson has four points in his last six games for a team that has struggled to score.
Injury Report: The Predators are icing a healthy lineup while Peter Regin (shoulder) and Jesse Winchester (concussion). Brian Lee (lower body) returns to the lineup tonight after being sidelined since Jan. 12.
Stat Pack: Milan Michalek still leads the Senators with 23 goals, but the team's recent slide has coincided with the winger's struggles. The all-star hasn't scored a goal since Jan. 12 and has just two assists and a minus-six rating in the 11 games played since then.
Puck Drop: After 11 seasons with the Senators, this will be Fisher's first game in Ottawa as a member of the visiting team. Don't be too surprised if coach Barry Trotz elects to let Fisher's line open the game --- giving the fans in Ottawa a chance to recognize Fisher's time with the Senators and give him a chance to get that opening shift out the way. "I've been looking forward to it for a long time, but I'm sure it is going to be a little strange going into the visiting locker room," Fisher told the Predators' website. "But that being said, as an athlete you get ready for playoff games and there are different emotions, excitement and you have to learn to just channel it. I'm sure (tonight) will be a little like that. But you know what, when the puck drops it is all business and it is all the same." Still, Fisher has fond memories of his time up in Ottawa. "Those fans treated me so well for so long; I have a lot of good memories up there."