Senators-Hurricanes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 23, 2011
The Ottawa Senators may be dealing with a lot of injuries, but it isn't slowing down their offense. Red-hot Daniel Alfredsson will try for career goal No. 400 when the surging Senators visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night. Ottawa has scored 14 goals in winning its last three games - all at home. The Senators (17-14-4) held on for a 4-3 overtime win over Florida on Thursday after giving up the tying goal with 1:12 remaining in regulation. Bobby Butler scored the winner 2:02 into the extra period. Ottawa had seven players record at least one point. Alfredsson had three, including his 399th career regular-season goal - his third in four games to go along with six assists. "I think healthwise I feel like I'm skating and getting up and down the ice at the rate I'd like to,'' said Alfredsson, who missed five games in November with a concussion. The Senators' offense could be even more potent with the impending return of Milan Michalek, who has a team-leading 19 goals. He hasn't played since Dec. 13 when he collided with teammate Erik Karlsson and suffered a concussion, but is hoping to return next week. "I've had good days, three or four in a row ... but you never know how it's going to be with a concussion," Michalek told the Senators' official website earlier this week. Meanwhile, center Jesse Winchester missed Thursday's game after suffering a concussion in Tuesday's win over Buffalo. Fellow center Peter Regin suffered a shoulder injury in that victory and is out as well. Ottawa is hoping it can withstand those absences as it goes for its third straight victory over Carolina (10-19-6). The Senators defeated the Hurricanes 4-3 on Nov. 27 following a 3-2 shootout victory at home Oct. 25. Struggling Carolina fell to 2-8-3 in its last 13 games after blowing a 3-1 lead in a 4-3 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday. Three nights earlier, the Hurricanes coughed up a 2-1 lead against Florida in an overtime loss. "What we have to learn is to be more resilient," said coach Kirk Muller, who is 2-6-0 since taking over. "We got that third goal (Wednesday) and I thought we were in good shape. When they got that second goal and you can see our body language and the team dropped its energy. "That's what we've got to get away from. We still had the lead, so I thought we were still in good shape." Cam Ward, who has started all but two of the last 13 games, has posted a 3.60 goals-against average and an .879 save percentage during that stretch. He faced only 19 shots Wednesday, but gave up two goals on five shots in the third period. If Ward starts again Friday, he'll look to improve on a 5-1-1 home record against the Senators. He has a 1.48 GAA during the last six of those starts after making 28 saves in the October shootout loss. A visit from Ottawa could also provide a much-needed boost to Eric Staal, who has six goals and eight assists in the last 10 meetings. Staal's miserable season continued Wednesday as he was held without a point for a third straight game while finishing with a minus-3 rating. "I've got to be the best player on the ice on a night like tonight, and I wasn't," said Staal, who has an NHL-worst minus-21 mark. Carolina has lost six of seven at home, though it's 7-0-1 in its last eight versus Ottawa in Raleigh.
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