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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, February 13th (All times eastern)

Ottawa Senators (35-22-4) at Detroit Red Wings (27-21-12), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - For the struggling and injury-plagued Detroit Red Wings, the upcoming break for the Winter Olympics couldn't come any sooner. The Ottawa Senators likely wouldn't mind keeping the season going a little longer, however, considering the team's success over the past month.

The scorching Senators will try to hand Detroit a fifth straight loss in this evening's interconference clash from Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings' recent woes continued in Thursday's 3-2 home shootout defeat to the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks. It's the team's longest slide since an 0-4-1 stretch from January 17-31, 2009.

Detroit, the 2007-08 NHL champion and Stanley Cup finalist a season ago, is now 3-5-6 since January 16 and in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 1989-90. The Red Wings enter tonight's matchup tied with Dallas for ninth place in the West and one point behind Calgary for the conference's eighth and final postseason berth.

The Red Wings sent Thursday's game into overtime when Jason Williams scored with 7:05 left in the third period, but couldn't come up with a goal in the shootout. San Jose's Patrick Marleau got a shot past goaltender Jimmy Howard in the third round of the deciding phase to keep Detroit's skid intact.

The Wings fell despite outshooting the Sharks by a whopping 52-26 margin, with Williams and Johan Franzen coming up with the team's only goals.

"It's disappointing," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said afterward. "I thought we battled real hard in the third period to come back and get a point out of it."

The Red Wings will have more than two weeks off to work out their problems following this evening's test, but first have to deal with an Ottawa club that's been close to unbeatable as of late. After having a franchise-record 11-game win streak halted with a 5-0 loss at Toronto last Saturday, the Senators bounced back with consecutive home victories over Calgary and Washington.

Ottawa came through with a hard-fought 6-5 decision over the powerful Capitals Thursday at Scotiabank Place. Chris Phillips scored 2:23 into the third period to snap a 4-4 deadlock, with Alex Kovalev later netting the eventual game- winner on the power play five minutes later.

The Senators had built an early 3-1 advantage on first-period goals from Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson, but Washington scored three straight times to open the second frame before Chris Neil pulled Ottawa even with 1:56 left in the middle session.

"A big start is always important," said Kovalev. "These games are a lot easier to play. Still, [the Capitals] showed a lot of character, but we were able to get out to a lead even though they were a threat to come from behind and tie the game."

Both Michalek and Spezza ended the night with a goal and two assists, and Spezza has amassed 13 points (9 goals, 4 assists) in nine games since returning from a knee injury on January 23.

Ottawa got some additional scoring punch on Friday's off day, acquiring veteran center Matt Cullen from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. The 33- year-old Cullen has posted 12 goals and 28 assists in 60 games this season.

The Senators head to the Motor City with a one-point edge on slumping Buffalo for first place in the Northeast Division. Ottawa, which is 12-14-1 on the road for the season, will wrap up its pre-Olympic slate by visiting the New York Islanders on Sunday.

This will be Ottawa's first stop in Detroit since a 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena on December 12, 2006. The Red Wings ended a two-game losing streak in the series with last season's 3-2 triumph at Scotiabank Place.

02/13 10:36:13 ET


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