Blues-Senators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 06, 2012
The Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues currently are in the thick of their respective conference's playoff race, though both teams have been struggling of late. The Senators have had it especially rough. Ottawa looks to avoid a seven-game losing streak by earning its sixth straight home victory over St. Louis when the teams meet Tuesday night. The Senators (27-21-7) went 10-1-1 from Dec. 30-Jan. 19 to help climb toward the top of the Eastern Conference, but a recent scoring drought has left them clinging to one of the final postseason spots. Ottawa fell 5-0 to Toronto on Saturday and is in the midst of its longest skid since going 0-9-2 from Jan. 14-Feb. 9, 2011. It has been outscored 20-8 while going 1 for 15 on the power play during the losing streak. "Right now we're in a down point and it's just a matter of how quick we can turn this thing around,'' said Jason Spezza, who has a team-high 50 points despite not earning one during the skid. "We've still got ourselves in the cluster of teams in the playoffs so it's no time to quit or get real down on ourselves.'' The same goes for the Blues (30-14-7), who despite having lost three of four are part of a four-team race in the competitive Central Division. St. Louis also has struggled to score of late, which was evident in its 3-1 loss to Nashville on Saturday. It has 11 goals over its last seven games. Coach Ken Hitchcock, who has led the team's resurgence since being hired Nov. 7 to replace the fired Davis Payne, said the Blues were done in by one bad period Saturday. "I thought we were better in the first, they were way, way better in the second, and we were better in the third,'' Hitchcock said. "We just had too many passengers in the second period.'' Goaltending, however, hasn't been much of an issue. The Blues are 7-2-2 since Jan. 7, with five of those victories being shutouts - three of which ended 1-0. Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves Saturday and is 12-2-3 with a 1.56 goals-against average in his last 17 starts. All-Star Brian Elliott - in his first season with the Blues after spending 3 1/2 years with Ottawa - leads the league with a 1.69 GAA and figures to get the nod against his old team. Elliott was in net for the visiting Senators when the Blues won 5-2 on Nov. 19, 2010, in the most recent meeting, ending a six-game winless streak in the series. St. Louis, though, has lost the last five matchups in Ottawa while not scoring more than two goals in any contest, last winning there 4-1 on Jan. 26, 2000. Elliott was traded just 12 months ago from Ottawa to Colorado for Craig Anderson before signing with St. Louis on July 1. While Elliott has thrived in St. Louis, Anderson has made 17 consecutive starts, a league-high 50 appearances and will likely be in net looking to keep the Blues struggling at Scotiabank Place. Anderson has started each of Ottawa's six straight losses, compiling a 3.53 GAA in that span. He's 4-1-0 with a 2.95 GAA in six appearances - five starts - lifetime versus St. Louis. The Blues are 2-5-2 in their last nine road games, though the Senators have lost three straight at home after winning seven of their previous eight.
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