Calgary Flames at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 30, 2011

The Ottawa Senators are coming off a little hiccup in their recent strong play — prior to dropping a 6-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, they’d picked up points in four straight games.

Calgary Flames at Ottawa Senators on Dec. 30, 2011


THE STORY:
The Ottawa Senators are coming off a little hiccup in their recent strong play — prior to dropping a 6-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, they’d picked up points in four straight games. They need to get back to that type of production to keep pace in the playoff race, too. The Winnipeg Jets picked up another win Thursday night while Ottawa sat idle to move two points ahead and into seventh place.

THE SUBPLOTS: What is going on with Craig Anderson? Here was a guy who was supposed to stabilize the Senators’ goaltending situation and has instead been one of the weak links this season. After getting the hook for allowing four goals on seven shots against the Habs, Anderson’s save percentage is a paltry .895. It’s unclear if he’ll even get the start against Calgary tonight.

THE WILDCARD: Milan Michalek, Senators. If he can get back to the scoring pace he established before going down with a concussion, the Senators will be able to survive some shoddy goaltending here and there. Michalek picked up an assist in his first game back Tuesday after missing five, which was a fine contribution. Now the Senators needs him to start putting the puck in the net again. Even with the time off, Michalek only trails league leader Steven Stamkos by four goals.

THE OPPONENT: The Flames appeared headed for yet another disappointing season after getting out of the gate slowly in the fall, but contributions from their top players have them on the right track again. While people expect Jarome Iginla to produce consistently, perhaps the biggest surprise in the Flames’ lineup is the re-emergence of Olli Jokinen. Jokinen, who has underwhelmed pretty much since leaving the Florida Panthers after the 2007-2008 season. He enters this game riding a seven-game point streak.

THE QUOTE: “We can play real well and then we have games like we had against Montreal, where we’re not very good. The play of our whole team is a reflection of the goalies on our team. It’s not just them and it’s not just the team. When the team plays well, our goalies play well, so I think that’s the barometer that I see.” — Senators coach Paul MacLean, deflecting attention from his netminders.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — (C) P. Regin (shoulder), (C) J. Winchester (concussion). Flames — (LW) A. Tanguay (upper-body), (C) M. Stajan (ankle), (D) B. Carson (upper-body), (G) H. Karlsson (MCL), (D) M. Giordano (leg tendon), (RW) D. Moss (lower-body), (D) A. Babchuk (hand).

THE PREDICTION: You know you’re in trouble when you’re tied with Ian Mendes. I need the Senators to bail me out here. They had two days to think about their disappointing 6-2 loss to the slumping Montreal Canadiens, but that had more to do with goaltending than anything else. They should still be a confident group after some solid play last week and will come out with a strong bounce-back effort. Senators 3, Flames 2. (SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE).

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