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Tuesday, March 16th (All times eastern)

Toronto Maple Leafs (23-34-12) at Ottawa Senators (37-27-5), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators have found it hard to recapture their earlier success upon returning from the Olympic break. The playoff hopefuls hope a visit from the Eastern Conference's last-place team will help end those struggles.

The slumping Senators head back to Scotiabank Place tonight to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in a showdown between Northeast Division foes.

Ottawa had been on fire prior to the NHL's stoppage for the Vancouver Games, ripping off 14 wins in its final 16 contests before the shutdown. The Senators haven't been the same since play resumed, however, going 1-4-1 in their first six outings of March.

The Sens did open a three-game tour of Western Canada with a 4-1 triumph over doormat Edmonton on March 9, but followed with disappointing results in both Calgary and Vancouver. After being shut out by the Flames on Thursday, Ottawa was dominated on both ends of the ice in a 5-1 defeat to the Canucks in Saturday's finale of the trip.

Vancouver outshot the Senators 17-2 in the first period and by a 35-14 margin for the game, and converted 2-of-6 power-play opportunities in addition to recording a short-handed goal.

"Not a whole lot to say about that effort," a frustrated Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston said afterward. "We weren't ready to go. [The Canucks] played like it was a playoff game and we weren't ready to step our game up."

Jason Spezza netted the lone Senators' goal, while goaltender Pascal Leclaire made 30 saves in a losing cause.

Ottawa now trails Buffalo by three points for first place in the Northeast, but still stands fifth in the Eastern Conference standings despite its current slide.

The Senators will try to bounce back in this evening's bout with the lowly Leafs, whose 58 total points trail only Edmonton for the lowest amount in the league. Toronto has taken the last three meetings between the divisional rivals, however, including a 2-1 shootout decision at Scotiabank Place on March 6.

That victory started off a 4-1-0 stretch for the Maple Leafs, although they couldn't sustain that momentum in Sunday's 4-1 road loss to the New York Islanders.

Nikolai Kulemin did have a goal for Toronto to extend his personal scoring streak to five games, with the Russian wing having compiled seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) over that span.

The defeat was the ninth in the past 10 road games for the Leafs, with the March 6 verdict over the Senators their only win during that period. Toronto has been one of the NHL's worst teams away from home this season, bringing a poor 9-20-7 mark as the visitor into tonight's tilt.

Ottawa is a strong 23-13-4 on home ice thus far in 2009-10, but has lost three of its five previous matchups with the Maple Leafs this season as well as six of the past nine overall meetings in this series.

03/16 10:43:29 ET


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