Anaheim Ducks at Ottawa Senators on Jan. 18, 2011

Two teams forever linked by the 2007 Stanley Cup final meet in Ottawa.

THE STORY: Two teams forever linked by the 2007 Stanley Cup final meet in Ottawa. My how times have changed. While the Ducks are fighting for their playoff lives every night, the Senators will almost certainly miss the postseason for the second time in three years. Fans here have given up on another championship drive and have instead turned their attention to a possible lottery pick in the draft.

THE SUBPLOTS: Senators owner Eugene Melynk has been uncharacteristically silent as the Senators muddle through the middle of the season. Perhaps he doesn’t know what to say. Not long ago, he was urging fans to buckle their seatbelts because his team was going all the way. The team has since made a mockery of those words and, instead of planning some far-off Cup parade, Melnyk has to decide who will lead this franchise into the future.

THE WILDCARD: Daniel Alfredsson, Senators. Ottawa is now ranked 29th out of 30 teams in goals per game, so there’s plenty of pressure on the team’s goal-scoring leader to produce. No. 11 has 14 on the year, which puts him on pace for his 11th consecutive 20-goal season. Unfortunately, he’ll need a lot more than that to pull the Senators out of their funk.

THE OPPONENT: The Anaheim Ducks’ leader already has 23 goals this season and is on pace for his best output ever (39). Ranked 8th in overall league scoring, Corey Perry has been the Ducks’ best player this season, stealing a distinction normally held by Ryan Getzlaf (who is currently out with a broken nose). He’s also tough, ranking 18th in the NHL with 82 penalty minutes on the year.

THE QUOTE: “We’re in a tough spot. We know that, but we’re not going to go down without a fight. We’re going to push ourselves as hard as we can. We have to have the effort every night. We know that. We’re not getting enough goals where we can play one period or 30 minutes.” — Alfredsson on not packing it in, despite the Senators’ bleak position in the standings.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, day-to-day), C Jason Spezza (shoulder, indefinite), RW Alex Kovalev (knee, one week). C Ryan Getzlaf (nose), LW Aaron Voros (eye), C Jason Jaffray (knee).

THE PREDICTION: The Ducks are a playoff team in the Western Conference, where the competition is incredibly tough. The Senators aren’t even close to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, where points should be much easier to come by. I’ve picked a close score, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one got ugly. Senators 2, Ducks 3. (Click here to see who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one)

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