Canadiens-Senators Preview

The Ottawa Senators were playing very well offensively before

struggling in the finale of a busy stretch before the holiday

break.

Some time off could help Ottawa return to its winning ways, as

could facing a Montreal Canadiens team having major problems

scoring.

The Senators try to extend their point streak to five Tuesday

night when Northeast Division rival Montreal takes a fifth crack at

getting interim coach Randy Cunneyworth his first win.

After losing five of six to open the month, Ottawa (17-14-5)

went 4-1-1 to enter the break tied for the seventh-most points in

the Eastern Conference. Playing their third game in four nights,

the Senators had a three-game winning streak snapped Friday with a

2-1 overtime loss at Carolina.

“We didn’t really generate a whole lot of offense consistently,”

coach Paul MacLean said after his team had 23 shots, its fewest

since Nov. 17. “We played too much in our own end of the rink.

Overall, we’re not happy with losing, but we can accept the point

under the circumstances.”

Ottawa’s last five-game point streak was a season-best 6-0-0

stretch Oct. 20-30.

Before Friday’s loss, the Senators totaled 14 goals while

winning three in a row at home – going 4 for 10 on the power play –

and they could get a huge lift Tuesday if Milan Michalek

returns.

The veteran forward has not played since Dec. 13 after colliding

with teammate Erik Karlsson and suffering a concussion. Michalek

led the NHL with 19 goals when he was injured, including seven in

his past eight games.

Ottawa’s hottest player had been captain Daniel Alfredsson, who

had three goals and six assists in a four-game span before being

held off the scoresheet Friday. Alfredsson, one goal shy of 400, is

pointless in four straight against the Canadiens.

He missed the only meeting this season due to a concussion as

Montreal won 2-1 in Ottawa on Nov. 4.

The Canadiens (13-16-7) are 3-0-2 in their last five trips

there, but they return having lost five straight overall by a 21-9

score. They’ve been among the league’s lowest-scoring teams since

Thanksgiving at 2.21 goals per game, losing 11 of 14.

Montreal is 0-4-0 since Cunneyworth took over for the fired

Jacques Martin. Being the team’s first non-French speaking coach in

more than 40 years has put Cunneyworth in an awkward spot, but he

knows that winning should help quiet some of the mounting criticism

from Canadiens fans, media, former players and even the Quebec

government.

“You have to keep on trying and that’s the bottom line,”

Cunneyworth said following Thursday’s 4-0 loss at Winnipeg. “It

comes down to competing, being physical and having some resolve in

our play. I think it’s about sticking together at this time. We are

trying to figure out the pieces of the puzzle and everybody has to

come together.”

As bad as Montreal has played, the club is just six points

behind the Senators.

“We have to remember that it’s our goal to make the playoffs,”

goaltender Carey Price told the Canadiens’ official website. “…

We have to make this push together – it’s just that simple.”

Price has lost four straight starts while allowing 16 goals, but

he’s 5-1-0 with a 1.51 GAA in his last six versus Ottawa after

turning aside 33 shots Nov. 4.

Canadiens leading goal scorer Erik Cole has a five-game point

streak versus Ottawa.