Season Series: This is the fourth of six season meetings, and the first of a back-to-back. Despite their last-place standing in the Eastern, Montreal holds a 2-0-1 edge over Ottawa, but both of those wins came away from the Bell Centre. In the only meeting in the Habs' building, on Jan. 14, the Senators prevailed in a shootout, 3-2, on Daniel Alfredsson's conversion.
Big Story: Montreal and Ottawa have been on nearly identical runs of late – both teams won two straight before losing post-regulation to Buffalo in their last outing – but the more important stat comes in the conference standings. The Senators sit seventh, comfortably inside the playoff picture, and are looking to hedge the four-point gap between them and sixth-place New Jersey.
Senators: Ottawa opened February in a rare offensive slump, scoring just three times in losses to Chicago and Florida. That changed last Tuesday in Tampa Bay, when Ottawa netted seven times in a blowout. On Thursday, the Senators returned home to beat the face the New York Rangers, 4-1. Ottawa gave up an early goal to Ryan Callahan, but scored four straight, dominating most of the contest. Saturday against Buffalo, however, Ottawa failed to finish. Up 3-2 with six minutes to go, Marcus Foligno equalized for the Sabres at 14:06. After a career game against the Rangers in which he stopped 25 of 26 shots, youngster Ben Bishop made 38 saves but lost a goaltending duel with Buffalo's Ryan Miller. With Craig Anderson still sidelined with a right-finger laceration, Bishop should make his fourth straight start.
"When Craig went down the uncertainty makes you cautious," Sens coach Paul MacLean said. "As a coach you like knowing, you don't like hoping. Right now we know we're going to get good goaltending and that makes us all feel a little better."
Canadiens: As a disappointing season winds down, Montreal has clearly resolved to fight until the end. The Habs went 2-1 on a three-game swing through Western Canada, including convincing wins over Edmonton and Vancouver. Montreal conceded first, but scored the next four – including two goals from Erik Cole – and Carey Price made 32 saves.
On Monday against Buffalo, the Sabres looked like it would be an easy, 2-1 regulation win. That is, until David Desharnais scored on a snap shot with five seconds left to send it into overtime. Tyler Myers’ wrist shot at 2:01 of overtime to snatch the two points from Montreal.
"There's no quit in this team," said backup Peter Budaj, who stopped 33 shots. "There's a lot of pride and a lot of commitment to the team, to the logo, to the organization and fans."
Who's Hot: It's a tale of two Erik's. Erik Karlsson has to be considered a finalist for the Norris Trophy. The blueliner scored twice against Buffalo and has 10 goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games. … Cole, meanwhile, has 3 goals and an assist in his last two games.
Injury Report: In addition to Anderson, Peter Regin (left-shoulder surgery) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) are also on IR. … For Montreal, Raphael Diaz (lower body), Mathieu Darche (dizziness/upper body), Travis Moen (upper body), Mike Blunden (knee surgery) and Brian Gionta (right biceps surgery) are on the IR.
Stat Pack: Ottawa has won six times in its last eight trips to the Bell Centre, and will have a wild card in the surprising Bishop. Unfortunately, Price has performed well against the Senators of late, going 6-1-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average and a shutout since the start of 2010-11.
Puck Drop: Veteran Habs defenseman Andrei Markov made his return against the Canucks, playing 17 minutes and assisting on P.K. Subban's power-play goal.
"He's a first-class player and he moves the puck so well," Habs goalie Carey Price said. "When we're breaking the puck out, he just has the confidence with it, and it makes a big difference. He's a big boost for us and he's pretty irreplaceable."