Game preview : Canadiens-Senators
CANADIENS (25-25-5) at SENATORS (30-21-4)
Montreal 4-4-2; Senators 8-2-0
This is the fifth meeting of six between the divisional rivals and their final regular season faceoff at Scotiabank Place. The Senators lead the series with three victories, 3-1 on Oct. 17, 4-2 on Dec. 28 and 4-2 on Jan. 16. That last win was the second in their current eight-game streak, and it marked Daniel Alfredsson's return to the lineup from injury in which he picked up a goal and two assists. The Canadiens grabbed a 4-1 win on Dec. 8.
The Sens are on the verge of a franchise-record nine straight wins as they face the Canadiens in a Hockey Day in Canada matchup on Saturday. Two-and-a-half weeks ago, the Senators were battling for a playoff spot and now they find themselves in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 64 points, eight points ahead of the sixth-place team. Strong goaltending and the return of Alfredsson and Jason Spezza have been the keys to success.
"It would be great, for sure," Mike Fisher said of the potential franchise record. "But the most important thing is we're moving up the standings and that playoff spot. It would be nice to get (a win) tomorrow, for sure."
The Canadiens had two strong wins against the Rangers and the Devils and then they traveled to Florida to not-so-sunny times. The Habs fell 2-1 to the Panthers on Tuesday and were shut out 3-0 by the Lightning on Wednesday. On a positive note, Montreal both outshot and outhit Tampa Bay, but failed to get the puck past Antero Niittymaki. The Habs sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points.
"We have to be ready to go war,” coach Jacques Martin said. "It's winning one-on-one battles; it's playing the way we did last week against in big games against the Devils and Rangers, full of intensity and supporting one another. The standings are so tight now and there is so much parity these days that it's going to be quite the battle through to the end."
The Senators have certainly stepped things up. When they faced the Canadiens two weeks ago, they had identical records with 50 points. Their most recent victory was a 4-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. While Pittsburgh opened the scoring early with a goal from Evgeni Malkin, the Senators responded with goals from Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly and Spezza and a third period empty-netter from Nick Foligno. Brian Elliott finished the night with 30 saves.
"We're rolling right now," Spezza said. "We're beating good teams and gaining confidence from it. It's a broken record, but winning breeds confidence, and we're a confident bunch right now."
Spezza has had a goal in each of his three games for Ottawa since his return from injury, while Alfredsson has had five goals and six assists in seven games since coming back. … Cammalleri broke his five-game point streak of eight points Tuesday against the Lightning, but leads Montreal with 26 goals and 188 shots on goal.
Sens goalie Pascal Leclaire (concussion) practiced with the team for the first time on Friday, but is at least a week away from returning to the lineup. Center Jesse Winchester (knee) is on the injured reserve. … Canadiens defensemen Jaroslav Spacek
(upper body/flu-like symptoms) and Paul Mara (upper body) will both be out for Saturday's game, while left wing Andrei Kostitsyn
(left knee surgery) isn't expected to make his return until after the Olympics.
The Senators have outscored opponents 27-8 during their win streak.
"We have to respect the fact that the Senators are probably playing their best hockey ever right now. We're very conscious of the situation in the room. We know we can't be looking two or three games ahead with such a big game coming up in Ottawa." -- Canadiens left wing Mike Cammalleri