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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Monday, March 24th (All times eastern)

Ottawa Senators (41-27-7) at Montreal Canadiens (42-24-10), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Though the Montreal Canadiens have been expanding their lead over Ottawa in the Northeast Division, they still are having trouble beating the Senators this season. The Habs will try to reverse that trend and clinch a playoff spot tonight when they host Ottawa at the Bell Centre.

Montreal, which currently has the best record in the Eastern Conference, owns a five-point edge over the Senators in the division, though Ottawa has a game in hand. However, the Canadiens are just 1-5-0 versus the Senators this season, including an 0-3-0 mark in Ottawa.

The Habs hold a one-point edge in the East over second-seeded Pittsburgh, which is also in action Monday, and can clinch a playoff spot with two points tonight.

Montreal picked up two more big points on Saturday, as Saki Koivu slipped a backhander between the legs of Tim Thomas in the last round of a shootout to lift the Canadiens over the Boston Bruins, 3-2.

Andrei Markov and Andrei Kostitsyn each lit the lamp in regulation for the Canadiens, who swept their eight-game season series against Boston and have won six of their last nine overall this year.

Carey Price stopped 33 shots and all three shooters in the shootout for Montreal, but is 0-2 with a 3.45 goals-against average against the Senators this season.

The Canadiens have won five of their last seven at home and play the second portion of back-to-back home games tonight. Montreal is 19-13-6 as the host this year and opens a three-game road trip on Friday that ends in Ottawa on April 1.

Ottawa has lost two of its last three and fell in regulation on Saturday to fall further behind Montreal. Jiri Tlusty and Matt Stajan scored 41 seconds apart in the third period to help Toronto edge the Senators, 5-4.

Cory Stillman had a goal and a helper for Ottawa, while Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Lapointe and Dany Heatley also scored. Jason Spezza and Christoph Schubert racked up two assists apiece and Martin Gerber surrendered all five goals on 34 chances in the loss, just the Sens' second in their past six games.

Spezza has seven goals and seven assists in five games versus Montreal this year, while Alfredsson has four goals and eight helpers against them.

Chris Neil returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with a knee ailment, but Chris Kelly suffered a left leg injury after blocking a shot in the first period and is out.

Ottawa is 19-14-4 on the road this year and begins a two-game trip tonight that next takes the team to Buffalo on Tuesday. The Sens have dropped six of their past eight as the road team.

03/24 10:46:55 ET

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