Atlanta Thrashers at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 13, 2010

The city was rife with speculation Friday that Ottawa Senators coach Cory Clouston might lose his job over the weekend if his team didn’t pull out a win against the awful-looking New Jersey Devils.

Atlanta Thrashers at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 13, 2010
Matt Puempel. (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

THE STORY: The city was rife with speculation Friday that Ottawa Senators coach Cory Clouston might lose his job over the weekend if his team didn’t pull out a win against the awful-looking New Jersey Devils. It did, and it’ll have a chance to build on that success Monday against the suddenly surging Atlanta Thrashers.

THE SUBPLOTS: After Alex Kovalev bleated to the press that he was taking too much blame for the Senators’ struggles, he suddenly found himself promoted from the fourth line to the No. 1 trio with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. Strange message to send to the players on this team who work hard and keep their mouths shut, but maybe it’ll get AK27 to stop firing blanks.

THE WILDCARD: Brian Elliott. Pascal Leclaire is hurting again, meaning Elliott will be back between the pipes for the Senators. Although Leclaire’s numbers leave something to be desired, he had been playing well and appeared ready to make a pitch for the No. 1 job. Elliott, meanwhile, is on a personal three-game losing streak. On the plus side, he is 4-2 lifetime against Atlanta.

THE OPPONENT: It’s Thrasher season in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta holds the eighth and final playoff spot with 35 points — seven ahead of the Senators, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres. That’s actually a pretty sizable lead in December, but a sudden collapse isn’t out of the question for this franchise. The Thrashers have started strong before, only to fade as the season wore on.

THE QUOTE: “We’ve obviously really struggled as a team to score, and that’s part of it. But, at the same time, I haven’t been happy with the amount of chances I’ve generated. It hasn’t been enough. I don’t think I’m telling myself that I’m playing really well and not getting it done. I know I can be better. I’ll be better if the team wins some more (games). It goes hand in hand. It has been a tough stretch, and not just because of me not scoring, (but also) because we haven’t been able to win a lot of games.” — Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, whose struggles have matched the team’s.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, questionable). Thrashers — no injures.

THE PREDICTION: After taking on the Thrashers at Scotiabank Place Monday, the Senators will have a couple of days off before embarking on a somewhat challenging two-game road set. They play in Minnesota Thursday night and in the thin air of Denver 24 hours later, then return to Ottawa for a tough match-up Sunday against the Washington Capitals. The Senators need these two points and I think they’ll get ‘em. Ottawa 3, Atlanta 2. See who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one by clicking here.

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