Canadiens-Senators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 15, 2012
Currently seventh in the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa Senators have held their own against most teams in the league. The Montreal Canadiens, however, have surprisingly had their number. Ottawa tries to avoid a fourth loss in five meetings with Montreal this season as the teams conclude a home-and-home set Friday night at Scotiabank Place. While most teams in the Senators' position would have been looking forward to back-to-back matchups with the last-place Canadiens (28-32-11), they haven't been able to figure out their Northeast Division rivals. After taking four of six from Ottawa (36-25-10) in 2010-11, Montreal improved to 3-0-1 this season with Wednesday's 3-2 shootout home win. "We just play well against them," said Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who's been in goal for all four meetings. "We're a pretty skilled team and so are they." The Senators, meanwhile, gained some ground on division-leading Boston, but know they need to bring a better effort going forward if they're going to catch the Bruins. "We were happy to get a point on the road," coach Paul MacLean said. "It was a little close to the vest on their part and on ours, but this team doesn't bring the best out in us, for some reason. "We have another opportunity on Friday to find a solution. We don't seem to be able to skate like we do when we're successful. We have to find a solution to that." Getting back on track at home, though, could prove difficult. The Senators are just 4-5-3 over their last 12 home games overall and have been outscored 20-7 in dropping four of five to Montreal on their own ice. Coming off back-to-back victories for the first time in over a month, Price, who made 32 saves in Saturday's 4-1 win at Vancouver, has to like his chances of keeping things going Friday. Price has compiled a 1.55 goals-against average while posting a 6-0-0 record in his last seven visits to Ottawa. Price is 11-3-1 with three shutouts in his last 16 overall meetings in the series. With No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson still sidelined with a lacerated finger, Ben Bishop has started each of the last four games, going 2-0-2 with a 2.16 GAA. He made 24 saves Wednesday. Montreal's Max Pacioretty extended his point streak to seven games with an assist Wednesday. He's notched five goals and seven assists during his run. Fellow forward Erik Cole scored for the fourth time in three games. While the Canadiens have picked up seven of a possible eight points over their last four contests, they still remain 11 behind Washington for the eighth and final playoff berth. "We had so many things happen to us this year," center David Desharnais, who scored Wednesday for his 11 point in eight games, told the team's official website. "We're trying to go out there and have fun but we continue to work really hard." The Canadiens were without defenseman Alexei Emelin (upper body) and center Scott Gomez (concussion) on Wednesday. Defenseman Tomas Kaberle also didn't play because his girlfriend gave birth. Emelin and Gomez are both uncertain to be available Friday while Kaberle could return. It's unknown if forwards Bobby Butler, Zenon Konopka and defenseman Matt Carkner will be available for Ottawa after they were held out Wednesday. The Canadiens and Senators conclude their season series March 23 in Montreal.
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