NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 23rd (All times Eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (13-16-1) at Ottawa Senators (16-9-6), 2 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators saw Sergei Gonchar set a club record last time out, but as per the script this season he later left the game with an injury.
The Sens, though, seemed to have dodged a bullet with their latest injury as Gonchar is expected to be a game-time decision on Saturday afternoon when the Sens try to bounce back against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Gonchar set an Ottawa team record for a defenseman in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins by recording an assist in a ninth straight game. The 38- year-old blueliner has a goal and 13 assists over his last nine games and leads the Senators with 21 points on the season.
However, he exited the setback late in the third period with an undisclosed injury and did not practice the following day. However, head coach Paul MacLean said on Friday that Gonchar did show improvement and that "it looks like he'll be able to go."
MacLean added that defenseman Marc Methot should also return after missing one game with a lower body injury. He had been replaced in the lineup on Thursday by Mike Lundin, who himself came back after missing eight contests in a row with a concussion.
The Sens coach is hoping that the club has seen the worst of the injuries this season as it is still without goaltender Craig Anderson as well as defenseman Erik Karlsson and forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek long term.
Ottawa had a three-game winning streak snapped with the loss to the Bruins. Kaspars Daugavins scored in the second period for his first goal of the season and Robin Lehner made 27 saves.
"Against this team you always have to play 60 minutes," said Paul MacLean. "At the end of the second period and the end of the game, we stopped playing for a little bit and that ends up being the difference."
Ottawa lost the opener of a five-game homestand and suffered only its second regulation loss as the hosting club this season (10-2-3). The Sens sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with 38 points, but did fall five back of the fourth-place Bruins.
The Lightning were looking to go on a run, but had a two-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday with a 4-2 setback versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Without forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone and Benoit Pouliot because of injury, rookie center Cory Conacher and defenseman Radko Gudas scored third- period goals after the Lightning fell behind 4-0.
"We didn't get the start we wanted, and we need to find a way to come out stronger," Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said. "For the most part, it looked like they wanted it more."
Conacher posted his NHL rookie-leading 22nd point, while Gudas notched his first career goal in his fifth career game.
Mathieu Garon started in net, but was pulled after yielding three goals on 13 shots in 27-plus minutes of action. However, he had to re-enter the game in the third when Anders Lindback suffered a lower body injury after stopping 7- of-8 shots faced in relief.
Garon is likely to start today as Lindback is day-to-day with his injury, reportedly a high right ankle sprain. Goaltender Cedrick Desjardins was recalled from the minors on Thursday along with forward Richard Panik.
Tampa Bay suffered its fifth loss in the past seven road games and dropped the opener of a three-game swing. It sits in a tie for 13th in the East, five points out of a playoff spot.
The Senators swept the four-game series last season, but the Lightning took the first of three meetings this year with a 6-4 home win on Jan. 25.
Ottawa has still won 11 of the past 16 encounters overall as well as three straight and seven of the last eight meetings at home.
03/23 10:35:36 ET