NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, January 21th (All times eastern)
St. Louis Blues (22-20-7) at Ottawa Senators (26-21-4), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators are getting healthier, and it's showing up in the results.
The injury-plagued club will be making a run at a season-high fifth straight win when it hosts a St. Louis Blues squad it's dominated in recent years tonight at Scotiabank Place.
Playing without three of its top scorers in captain Daniel Alfredsson (separated shoulder), Jason Spezza (knee) and Milan Michalek (concussion), Ottawa lost five consecutive times before finally breaking through with a 2-0 triumph over the New York Rangers on January 14. The Senators also saw No. 1 goaltender Pascal Leclaire go down with a concussion during that poor stretch.
Alfredsson returned to the lineup for Saturday's matchup at rival Montreal, and contributed a goal and two assists to lead the Senators to a 4-2 win. The veteran wing followed up with a hat trick on Monday, with the three goals spurring Ottawa to a 5-1 rout of fellow Northeast Division member Boston.
More help figures to come the Senators way, as Michalek could return from his injury as soon as tonight. The offseason pickup, acquired as part of the blockbuster trade with San Jose in September that sent All-Star Dany Heatley to the Sharks, has missed seven straight games but still stands second on the team with 16 goals this season.
The Chicago Blackhawks kept Alfredsson off the scoresheet in Tuesday's clash at Scotiabank Place, but four other Ottawa players lit the lamp as the team extended its winning streak with a 4-1 decision.
Peter Regin notched a goal and an assist, while Mike Fisher, Ryan Shannon and Zack Smith all scored once to help the Sens to their first victory over the Central Division-leading Blackhawks since December 18, 2003. Goaltender Brian Elliott did his part as well, turning aside 29 of the 30 shots he faced.
"Obviously, they have some of the most talented players in the league," said Shannon of the Blackhawks. "To beat a team like that...it was a good test for us and I think we're happy with where we are right now and our effort."
The Senators haven't had nearly as much trouble when facing the Blues over the years. Ottawa has taken the last four overall meetings between tonight's combatants, while St. Louis hasn't won in its last four visits to Scotiabank Place.
The Blues last prevailed in Ottawa on January 26, 2000, with their most recent win in the series being a 4-2 verdict in St. Louis on November 27, 2001.
St. Louis will be coming in on a good roll of its own, however, after posting its fifth victory in its past six games with last night's overtime ousting of Montreal. Andy McDonald scored the deciding goal in the 4-3 win off a feed from Paul Kariya with 1:41 remaining in the extra session.
Kariya had a goal earlier in the night for the Blues, who rebounded from Monday's 4-2 loss at Columbus in the opener of their current three-game road trip. Alexander Steen also finished with a goal and an assist, while goaltender Ty Conklin recorded 35 saves in his first start since January 2.
Conklin did allow a pair of unanswered goals in the third period as St. Louis blew a 3-1 lead, but the journeyman netminder made a spectacular save on the Canadiens' Andrei Markov just prior to McDonald's game-winning tally.
"We felt Montreal would make a push in the third (period)," said St. Louis head coach Davis Payne. "We had some control, but we turned the puck over and they made us pay. You don't like giving up leads."
The Blues are a solid 13-6-4 on the road this season, but have dropped four of their last six tests away from home.
01/21 10:48:20 ET