Nov 7, 2013; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save on a shot from Montreal Canadiens centre Alex Galchenyuk (27) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Canadiens 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Game 44 Preview: Ottawa Senators @ Montreal Canadiens

After sweeping their 3 game mini-homestand, the Ottawa Senators take to the road for the first of 4 games in an attempt to set a season high winning streak against a bitter rival.

 

SENS LOGO(18-18-7, 43 points) 6th Atlantic Division

VS

Canadiens logo(24-14-4, 52 points) 3rd Atlantic Division

7:00 PM  Bell Centre

TV:  CBC;  RADIO:  TSN1200

 

MATCHUP HISTORY

These clubs had a simmering rivalry due to geography and divisional alignment until last season when they finally met in the post-season and it boiled over.  Ottawa’s dominance on and off the ice in eliminating the Habs in 6 games carried over to the first meeting of the season when they posted a 4-1 win at home.

LAST GAMES

Ottawa beat Winnipeg 4-3 on Thursday night to extend their winning streak to 3,while the Canadiens completed their Western road trip with a 6-4 win over the Dallas Stars also on Thursday.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mika Zibanejad, OTT – After being demoted to the AHL to start the season, Zibanejad has returned with a purpose and that has never been more evident than the recent three game stretch where he has filled in for Jason Spezza.  Zibanejad has 2 goals and an assist and is +3 in the last 3 games, while his linemates Cory Conacher and Milan Michalek have combined for 2 goals and 5 assists and a +8 rating after struggling for much of the season.

P.K. Subban, MTL – Tuesday is the day when Subban will find out if Team Canada is willing to gamble on the risk/reward style Subban plays.  He has 2 goals, 4 assists and is a +4 in his last 2 games as he makes a final push to impress the decision makers for the Olympic team.

 

TOP 3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME

 

1.  Where Does Spezza Fit? – Without a doubt a healthy Jason Spezza is a #1 centre, but the Spezza that has missed the last 3 games is not a healthy one.  His return against Montreal is questionable, but if he does, where does he play?  The line of Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan-Clarke MacArthur is intact, and Zibanejad-Conacher-Michalek is on fire. The Zack Smih – Colin Greening – Erik Condra line does thier job so that leaves Spezza to play with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and either Mark Stone or Matt Kassian.

2.  The Price Is Right – Carey Price is a virtual lock to be one of the top 2 goalies on Canada’s Olympic team, and he has had great regular season success against the Senators, posting a 14-6-3 career record.

3.  Ready Out Of The Gate – The key to the Senators playing better of late is getting off to better starts.  In two of the three games in the current streak the Senators scored first, and have played better from the opening puck drop. This needs to continue, because the Habs can be very streaky and giving themselves confidence early would not bode well for Ottawa.

 

PARTING SHOT

The Senators continue to score goals, but keeping the puck out of their own net continues to be a problem.  The weak goal plagues Ottawa goalies on a nightly basis and until that problem is solved, Ottawa will be nip and tuck to win games.  That was the case on Thursday, when Ottawa had the edge until Evander Kane’s goal banked in from behind the net with Anderson not in proper position, or trying to get there.  This trend needs to change for Ottawa to close the gap between them and the playoffs.

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Tags: Game Preview Jason Spezza Mika Zibanejad Ottawa Senators P.K. Subban

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