National Hockey League

      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Monday, December 22
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - The Ottawa Senators hope to continue their recent
 dominance of the Washington Capitals when the clubs meet for the first time
 this season in Monday's clash at Verizon Center.
 The Senators are 3-1-1 since replacing head coach Paul MacLean with Dave
 Cameron, but the club had a tough start to a brief two-game road trip when it
 lost a 4-1 decision Friday night in Montreal.
 Ottawa will try to rebound tonight by producing an eighth straight victory
 against the Capitals, who haven't beaten the Sens since winning on the road on
 Dec. 7, 2011. Washington has lost three straight on home ice against Ottawa.
 The Capitals, however, are on a hot streak of late, having earned at least a
 point in eight straight. Washington is 6-0-2 during the stretch and is coming
 off consecutive victories at the end of a three-game road trip.
 The Senators had a two-game winning streak of their own halted by the
 Canadiens on Friday. Ottawa opened the scoring on Erik Condra's short-handed
 tally less than three minutes into the game, but Montreal would respond with
 four unanswered goals.
 Robin Lehner made 25 saves on 29 shots for the Senators, who went 0-for-3 on
 the power play.
 "We generated absolutely nothing off of the power play, not even momentum,"
 Cameron said.
 Ottawa fell to 7-9-3 as the guest. The club is playing its final tilt before
 the NHL's Christmas break tonight and the Sens will return to action in
 Saturday's home test versus Detroit.
 The Capitals have two games left before the hiatus, as they will follow up
 tonight's home test with Tuesday's road clash against the New York Rangers.
 Washington is coming off Saturday's road win in New Jersey, a 4-0 victory that
 gave the Caps a 2-0-1 mark on its road trip and improved the club's away
 record to 10-5-2. By comparison, Washington is only 6-5-4 as the home team
 this season.
 The Caps were fueled by their two biggest offensive stars on Saturday, as
 Nicklas Backstrom scored a pair of goals and Alex Ovechkin notched a
 highlight-reel tally to lead the way in Jersey.
 "(Ovechkin and Backstrom) carried us tonight," said Capitals coach Barry
 Trotz. "We weren't as sharp as we needed to be as a group. The big guys led
 the way when we needed a push."
 Mike Green also scored and Backstrom added an assist for the Capitals. Braden
 Holtby needed to stop only 21 shots for his second shutout of the season.
 Holtby is likely to get a night off from backup Justin Peters either tonight
 or in Tuesday's game against the Rangers. Holtby is 0-3-0 with a 3.05 goals
 against average in his career against Ottawa, while Peters lost his only
 lifetime appearance versus the Sens.
 Craig Anderson could start in net for Ottawa. The veteran netminder is 11-5-1
 with a 2.29 GAA in 17 career outings against the Capitals.
 ( - The Columbus Blue Jackets have gone a long way towards
 turning their season around over the last few weeks.
 Todd Richards' club hopes to keep trending upwards when it completes its pre-
 Christmas schedule with Monday's home test against the Nashville Predators.
 Columbus ended November with a 6-15-2 record on the season after losing its
 final six games of the month. However, the Blue Jackets began December on a
 seven-game winning streak and have still yet to lose in regulation this month,
 going 8-0-1.
 The surge has pushed Columbus, which made the playoffs last season for only
 the second time in club history, within seven points of the last postseason
 berth in the Eastern Conference.
 The Blue Jackets are playing the third part of a five-game homestand tonight.
 Columbus began the residency with Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss against
 Washington, but rebounded with a 3-2 shootout victory in Saturday's clash with
 the Chicago Blackhawks.
 Saturday's test marked the sixth straight time the Blue Jackets went beyond
 regulation, and they boast a 5-0-1 mark in those games.
 Jack Johnson played the shootout hero on Saturday, scoring the deciding goal
 in the ninth round of the tiebreaker. Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky
 also played a big role, as Columbus ended a 13-game losing streak in the
 series with the Blackhawks.
 After Johnson beat Crawford to begin the ninth round, Bobrovsky stood tall and
 sealed the win by denying Bryan Bickell's shot from the slot. It was the first
 win in the series for the Blue Jackets since a 4-3 road win on Feb. 18, 2011.
 "You want to measure yourself against the best," Johnson said. "We haven't
 beaten these guys in awhile so that felt good."
 Columbus improved its home record to 7-8-2 with the win. The Blue Jackets will
 resume their homestand Saturday against Boston before completing the stay
 versus Minnesota on New Year's Eve.
 The Blue Jackets won't have Boone Jenner for any of those games, however, as
 the forward is expected to miss the next 1-to-2 months with a stress fracture
 in his back. Jenner, who has six goals and six assists in 20 games this
 season, suffered the injury against Washington.
 Columbus expects to face another stiff test tonight against Nashville, which
 is just four points behind Chicago for the Central Division lead.
 The Predators have won two straight and four of their last five games and the
 club has seen its last two games go beyond regulation. Nashville won a 3-2
 shootout decision Tuesday against visiting Boston before kicking off a three-
 game road trip with Saturday's thrilling 6-5 overtime win against Minnesota.
 Mattias Ekholm scored the game-winning goal against the Wild at 1:45 of OT, as
 Minnesota couldn't pick up the extra point after tying the game in the final
 minute of regulation. Minnesota's Thomas Vanek scored with the goalie pulled
 in favor of the extra attacker with 47.8 seconds remaining in the third.
 Despite allowing the late game-tying scorer, the Predators did not let the two
 points slip away. Ekholm battled along the boards behind the Minnesota net,
 emerged with the puck and scored off a wrister from the right circle for the
 "I was just trying to spin in front of the net and get a shot off," Ekholm
 said. "It wasn't the hardest, but it went in so it's huge."
 Craig Smith, Matt Cullen and Roman Josi each had a goal and an assist, while
 Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg also lit the lamp for the Predators.
 Pekka Rinne earned the win despite allowing a season-high five goals on 27
 Nashville played without forward James Neal, who was sidelined with an illness
 and is questionable for tonight.
 With the Preds also playing Tuesday in Boston, it's uncertain if Rinne will
 start in net tonight against Bobrovsky. Nashville's No. 1 is 16-7-2 with a
 2.38 goals against average in his career against the Jackets, while backup
 Carter Hutton has never faced Columbus.
 Bobrovsky owns a 6-2-0 mark and a 2.35 GAA in his career against Nashville.
 Tonight's test marks the final scheduled meeting between the Blue Jackets and
 Preds in 2014-15. Nashville earned a 2-1 win over the Jackets at home on Nov.
 29, picking up just the second victory in its last five games against
 The Preds, who are 9-6-1 as the guest this season, have won four of their last
 six road games against the Blue Jackets.
 ( - The Pittsburgh Penguins aim for a fourth straight win
 and a sweep of a home-and-home series when they visit the Florida Panthers for
 Monday's battle at BB&T Center.
 The Eastern Conference-leading Penguins notched their third straight win
 Saturday against the visiting Panthers. The 3-1 triumph also pushed
 Pittsburgh's point streak to seven games (5-0-2).
 Florida, meanwhile, had a four-game point streak (3-0-1) of its own halted
 with the regulation loss at Consol Energy Center.
 Saturday's game was an eventful one, with the Panthers and Pens combining to
 take 76 minutes of penalties -- 70 of which came in the first two periods
 alone. Twenty-eight of the PIMs came over a 51-second span late in the first
 period with the Penguins holding a 2-1 lead.
 Pittsburgh's Steve Downie led all players with 17 penalty minutes, but he also
 notched an assist on both of his team's first-period goals, which gave the
 Pens an early 2-0 advantage. The second goal came off the stick of Derrick
 Pouliot, as Pittsburgh's highly-touted defensive prospect managed to score in
 his NHL debut.
 Sidney Crosby and Nick Spaling also scored in the Penguins' fifth consecutive
 home win, while Marc-Andre Fleury earned the victory with a 45-save effort.
 Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck provided the lone goal for Florida, which
 had played beyond regulation in its previous four games, winning three in
 shootouts and losing the other in overtime. Roberto Luongo stopped 31 shots in
 Despite the loss, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was pleased with his team's
 "If we play like that every night, I think we will win more games than we
 lose. I was really happy with our group tonight," Gallant said.
 Pouliot, a defenseman selected eighth overall by Pittsburgh in the 2012 draft,
 made it a 2-0 game when he took a cross-ice pass from Downie and beat Luongo
 high on the glove side with a shot from the bottom of the right circle at 6:56
 of the first period.
 "It's incredible. You dream about that moment happening," Pouliot said about
 scoring his first NHL goal.
 Just 35 seconds later, Trocheck tipped a long shot by Jonathan Huberdeau past
 Fleury for a power-play goal, but that would be the only puck to get by
 Pittsburgh's franchise goaltender.
 After a scoreless second period, Crosby would restore the two-goal lead for
 the Pens with his 10th goal of the season at 7:01 of the third.
 Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz returned to the lineup after missing eight games
 with a foot fracture. but fellow forward Craig Adams didn't play because of an
 undisclosed injury, which ended the longest iron man streak in Penguins
 history at 319 games.
 Adams is questionable tonight for the Penguins, who are managing to stay on a
 roll despite a host of injury and illness concerns.
 Luongo expects to start again tonight for Florida, which won't play again
 until Sunday against visiting Toronto due to the NHL's Christmas break. Luongo
 is 13-9-3 with a 2,80 goals against average in his career against Pittsburgh.
 Tonight's test marks the start of a four-game homestand for the Panthers. They
 are 7-4-2 as the host this season.
 With the Pens also scheduled to play Tuesday at Tampa Bay, Fleury could get a
 rest tonight in favor of backup Thomas Greiss. Fleury is 12-8-0 with a 2.53
 GAA in his career against Florida, while Greiss is 0-1-1 with a 3.91 GAA in
 this matchup.
 The Panthers and Pens have split the last six encounters overall. Pittsburgh
 has taken two of three and five of the past eight meetings in Florida.
 ( - The Vancouver Canucks will have five days off after they
 wrap a four-game homestand on Monday night against the Arizona Coyotes.
 A second straight victory will make that breather easier to enjoy.
 The Canucks snapped a five-game skid with a 3-2 overtime victory against the
 Calgary Flames on Saturday. It almost wasn't to be, though, as the Flames
 scored twice to rally from two goals down and force overtime, but Vancouver
 recovered and defenseman Chris Tanev came through with the winner just 18
 seconds into overtime.
 Following a missed shot by the Flames to begin the extra period, Henrik Sedin
 carried the puck into the Calgary zone and sent a pass back to the trailing
 Tanev, who snapped a shot from the slot into the net for his second goal of
 the season.
 "It's a huge win for us. Five (losses) in a row is tough. We thought we
 played well last game so it's good to get the win tonight," said Tanev.
 Ryan Miller made 26 saves and Radim Vrbata scored, while Yannick Weber was
 credited with a goal when the Flames sent the puck into their own empty net in
 the first period during a delayed penalty call.
 The game featured a scary incident when Canucks forward Jannik Hansen
 collapsed on the bench shortly after taking a hit from Calgary's Dennis
 Following the play, he skated to the bench and remained hunched over. Hansen
 then appeared to go limp as his teammates helped and quickly banged their
 sticks on the boards for the officials to stop play. Medical personnel rushed
 to Hansen's aid and he was able to go to the locker room under his own power.
 "He seemed like he couldn't get his breath there," Canucks coach Willie
 Desjardins said. "He kind of went down. When that happens it's not usual, so
 you're concerned. But everything's checked out at the hospital and everything
 is fine."
 Surprisingly, Hansen may play in this game tonight after getting released from
 the hospital on Sunday, though he did not skate with the club yesterday.
 Arizona may wish it had a nice break coming up, but it begins a span of games
 on back-to-back nights this evening having lost six of seven while going 3-8-3
 since it last won consecutive games on Nov. 14-16.
 The Coyotes are coming off a 4-2 setback to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday
 as Devan Dubnyk was tested all night long. He was charged with all four L.A.
 goals while making 31 saves.
 Martin Hanzal and Kyle Chipchura scored in the second period for Arizona,
 which was without both winger Lauri Korpikoski (lower body) and defenseman
 Michael Stone (upper body) due to injury.
 "We just didn't play hard enough and took some stupid penalties, especially in
 the offense zone. It was unacceptable," said Hanzal.
 Hanzal, who celebrated the birth of his daughter on Friday before playing
 versus the Kings, had a hat trick when the Coyotes beat the Canucks 5-0 in
 Vancouver on Nov. 14. That was the first of five meetings between the clubs
 this season.
 Dubnyk had a 35-save shutout and is 8-6-3 with a 2.42 goals against average
 and .926 save percentage in his career versus the Canucks, adding three
 Mike Smith, who has sat for three straight games in favor of Dubnyk, is 6-3-2
 lifetime versus Vancouver with a 2.19 GAA, .931 save percentage and two
 Miller gave up all five goals on 23 shots versus the Coyotes, falling to 7-1-0
 against them with a 1.73 GAA and .941 save percentage.
 The Canucks had a three-game home winning streak versus the Coyotes halted.
 SAN JOSE SHARKS (19-11-4) AT ANAHEIM DUCKS (22-8-5), 10 P.M.
 ( - The San Jose Sharks have winning at home down to a
 science right now.
 The Sharks now hope that trend can continue on the road, specifically in
 Anaheim as they visit the Ducks on Monday night at Honda Center.
 San Jose finished off a perfect five-game homestand with Saturdays' 3-2
 overtime victory versus the St. Louis Blues. That pushed the Sharks' home
 winning streak to eight in a row and the club has won nine of its past 10
 The Sharks needed some late heroics to best the Blues. Marc-Edouard Vlasic
 netted a game-tying goal with 20.6 seconds left in regulation before fellow
 defenseman Brent Burns ripped a shot past Jake Allen's blocker while on the
 power play with 38 seconds to go in overtime.
 "We buckled down and found a way to get back into it," Sharks head coach Todd
 McLellan said.
 Burns netted his 10th goal of the season, tied with Calgary's Dennis Wideman
 for the most among NHL defenseman this season.
 Andrew Desjardins also scored and Antti Niemi stopped 18-of-20 shots for the
 Sharks, who play their next two games on the road and trail the Ducks by seven
 points for first place in the Pacific Division.
 The Sharks have won the their first two meetings with the Ducks this season,
 notching a victory both at home and on the road. They have won seven of the
 past nine encounters overall, but the Sharks' 4-1 road victory on Oct. 26 was
 only their fourth in the past 13 trips to Anaheim.
 Meanwhile, the Ducks are coming off only their second loss in 10 games, a 6-2
 setback to the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
 After goaltender Frederik Andersen made 20 straight starts in net, Ilya
 Bryzgalov got his first start with Anaheim since signing with the club on Dec.
 9, but allowed six goals on 31 shots.
 "It was his first game. Sometimes you have to stay in there and face the
 medicine," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said of Bryzgalov finishing out the
 game. "He needed a 60-minute game and he played it. (Andersen) has been
 playing so much, I wasn't going to put him in a game that, in the end, I
 didn't think we were going to win. It was Bryz's game to win or lose."
 Ryan Getzlaf scored twice for a Ducks team that trailed 2-0 just 8:21 into the
 game and 4-0 by the later stages of the second period.
 "We didn't give ourselves much of a chance when we give up two goals in the
 first 10 minutes," said Getzlaf. "None of us played well, myself included. I
 expect better out of our group come Monday."
 Getzlaf has four goals and four assists over a five-game point streak and has
 logged 18 points over his previous 11 games. That span began with a one-goal,
 three-point game versus the Sharks in a 6-4 home loss on Nov. 29.
 Andersen is likely to start for the Ducks tonight in search of his first
 career win versus the Sharks. He has lost all four previous meetings with a
 4.41 goals against average and .860 save percentage.
 Niemi is 12-9-0 versus the Ducks with a 2.58 GAA and .907 save percentage.
 Anaheim's Hampus Lindholm did not play on Friday due to a lower-body injury
 and is day-to-day.
 CALGARY FLAMES (17-15-3) AT LOS ANGELES KINGS (17-11-6), 10:30 P.M.
 ( - Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar were key to the Los
 Angeles Kings' run to a Stanley Cup title a season ago.
 The duo is at it again.
 The Kings take aim at a third straight victory on Monday night when they play
 host to a Calgary Flames club trying to avoid a ninth straight loss.
 Kopitar led the NHL with 26 points during the most recent postseason and
 Gaborik netted 14 goals in helping Los Angeles win the Cup. Injuries, though,
 have limited Gaborik to 22 games this season and Kopitar had struggled to just
 14 points through his first 29 games before a recent two-game surge.
 Kopitar had a goal and four assists in a win over St. Louis on Thursday to
 begin a four-game homestand and then added another three helpers in Saturday's
 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
 Gaborik netted a goal for a fourth game in a row, with six total over that
 span. He also had picked up two assists during that run.
 Gaborik's goal with 2:20 left in the second period tied the game and Alec
 Martinez and Trevor Lewis scored in the third frame to put the contest away.
 Jeff Carter also scored and Jonathan Quick made 15 saves.
 "We came out pretty good dictating the tempo," said Kopitar. "It could easily
 go south after those two goals, but we stuck together and got it done on the
 power play."
 The Kings' back-to-back wins come following a 1-3-1 road trip. L.A. is 13-4-1
 at home this season and 4-7-5 on the road.
 The Flames face a tough task in slowing down the Kings' momentum at home and
 are on their longest losing streak since an 0-6-3 stretch from Jan. 11-28,
 After losing seven in a row in regulation, the Flames did at least earn a
 point with Saturday's 3-2 overtime setback to the Vancouver Canucks.
 Calgary fell behind by two goals, one that was credited to Vancouver when
 Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman's pass to the right point during a delayed
 penalty caromed off the boards past a teammate and all the way into the
 vacated net.
 "I don't know what to tell you. It was a basic pass back to the point that
 kind of handcuffed him, took a funny bounce off the wall and ran all the way
 down the ice and into the net," said Wideman.
 David Jones and Johnny Gaudreau, though, scored to even the game before the
 Canucks won it just 18 seconds into overtime. Jonas Hiller ended with 30 saves
 in defeat.
 "Goals are tough to come by," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "It would have
 been easy to fold the tent, but credit to our guys, they battled back. I
 thought we played a pretty solid game."
 Hiller has allowed two goals or fewer in three straight and four of his past
 five starts. He is 9-8-3 lifetime versus the Kings with a 2.30 goals against
 average, .928 save percentage and three shutouts.
 Quick is 9-5-2 versus the Flames with a 1.60 GAA and .934 save percentage
 along with two shutouts.
 Calgary won three of five versus the Kings last season and has taken two
 straight and four of its past six in Los Angeles.
 12/22 10:59:34 ET

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