Lightning-Senators Preview

Injuries are nothing new to the Ottawa Senators, though they’re

hoping the latest one doesn’t cost them their hottest player for a

game.

Sergei Gonchar is a game-time decision when the Senators

continue their five-game homestand Saturday against the Tampa Bay

Lightning.

The veteran defenseman set a franchise record with an assist for

the ninth consecutive game, helping on Kaspars Daugavins’

second-period goal in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Boston. While Gonchar

left late with an undisclosed injury and did not participate in

Friday’s practice, coach Paul MacLean seemed optimistic the

38-year-old would be able to anchor his team’s blue line.

“He had improvement so we’re positive for tomorrow,” MacLean

said of Gonchar, who has team highs of 19 assists and 21 points.

“It looks like he’s going to be able to go as well as (defenseman

Marc) Methot. They’re both important players and we need them to

play if they can.”

Methot missed Thursday’s contest with a lower-body injury.

Ottawa (16-9-6) has dealt with long-term injuries to top center

Jason Spezza, Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and defenseman

Jared Cowen and also has lost No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson and

forward Milan Michalek for extended periods of time.

Robin Lehner, who made 27 saves Thursday, will start again as

the Senators try to bounce back from just their second regulation

loss at home (10-2-3). Ben Bishop gave up five goals in a 6-4 loss

at Tampa Bay on Jan. 25 – the most allowed by Ottawa this season –

when Ryan Malone rallied the Lightning with a pair of third-period

goals.

“They’re a dangerous, dangerous team and if you allow them to

have possession of the puck and play in your zone, they’re going to

give you a lot of headaches with (Steven) Stamkos and (Martin) St.

Louis,” MacLean noted.

Stamkos and St. Louis, though, have only one goal between them

in the four games since center Vincent Lecavalier was put on the

injured list with a lower-body injury, with Stamkos scoring into an

empty net in Monday’s 4-2 win over Philadelphia.

The Lightning (13-16-1) opened a three-game road swing through

Canada with a 4-2 loss to Toronto on Wednesday, yielding three

goals in a 6:30 span of the second period that created an

insurmountable four-goal deficit.

“It took us too much time to get our legs,” coach Guy Boucher

said. “We’re a hard-working fast team and it didn’t look like that

the first half.

“We looked like we were waiting to see what was going to happen

out there,” he added. “I don’t know if it was because the guys

froze or it was a road game – I can’t tell you. But it wasn’t a

good game to start.”

And getting that first goal has been critical to Tampa Bay’s

limited success on the road. The Lightning are 4-2-0 when they take

a 1-0 lead in an opponent’s arena and 1-7-0 when they concede the

first goal. Additionally, they have dropped seven of eight at

Ottawa and failed to score more than two goals in any of their last

nine contests in the Canadian capital.

With 891 points, St. Louis is one shy of moving into a tie with

Peter Bondra for 100th on the all-time NHL list. St. Louis, who has

notched an assist in three straight games, had two in the January

win over Ottawa and 13 goals and 37 points in 45 lifetime games

versus the Senators.