Sens prepared for Leafs' Matthews this time (Jan 14, 2017)
OTTAWA -- The first time the Senators faced Auston Matthews, they were left with a bitter sweet memory.
The Toronto Maple Leafs rookie became the first player in modern NHL history to score four goals in his debut game, but the Senators still managed to prevail with a 5-4 overtime win in their home opener.
"It wasn't one systematic breakdown," Senators coach Guy Boucher recalled Friday. "It was him playing well. it was us opening up here and there. Things that we don't normally open up now.
"We're definitely better armed to face top players now, as a group."
When the Senators (22-14-4) host Matthews and the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at Canadian Tire Centre, it will mark the final game of a week that brought them similar challenges. They lost 1-0 to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 7, defeated Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 on Jan. 8 and then put together what was probably their best game of the season on Jan. 12, a 4-1 victory over Sidney Crosby and the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
They did not give up a goal to Ovechkin, McDavid or Crosby.
The Maple Leafs (19-13-8) will be coming off a high of their own. On Friday, they went into Madison Square Garden and scored a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Goalie Frederik Andersen made 34 saves against the highest scoring team in the NHL.
The Maple Leafs are now 7-0-2 in their last nine games on the road.
"We're taking care of pucks, is the biggest thing," said winger Connor Brown, who scored his 10 of the season on Friday. "Our special teams have been good, especially on the road. That's been leading to some success. We just have to keep playing the way we've been playing."
The Maple Leafs sudden surge has them two points behind the Senators for third place in the Atlantic Division as both teams get prepared to play their 41st game to mark the midway point of the season.
"I don't think we're getting too carried away with (the playoff race)," said Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly. "We know we have a long way to go. There's a lot of games left. That being said, when you're coming down the stretch here, you're in the spot that we're in, each game is big. All these points are big, especially when you're playing a team within your division. That's what we have a chance to do (Saturday) night. When you win those games, it's a good feeling and that's how you put yourself in a nice spot."
Curtis McElhinney will make his first start in goal for Toronto on Saturday. McElhinney, who was claimed off waivers by the Maple Leafs earlier this week, played seven games for the Senators in 2010-11. He has a 1-4-0 career record against Ottawa.
Making his 18th consecutive appearance in goal for the Senators will be Mike Condon, who made 29 saves to beat the Penguins for his 10th win of the season. Condon has a 2-0-0 career mark against the Maple Leafs
Centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau is also expected to play a prominent role for Ottawa after shutting down both McDavid and Crosby in head-to-head matchups.