Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 7, 2010

Everyone knows the story by now.

Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 7, 2010


THE STORY:
Everyone knows the story by now. Last January, the Senators were mired in a deep slump and playing so poorly that it looked like they might never turn things around. After a skate in Central Park, they knocked off the New York Rangers, then defeated the Habs in Montreal en route to an 11-game winning streak. Well, they didn’t skate in the park this season, but they did beat the Rangers with what, for them, qualifies as scoring bonanza (three goals). Can they keep it going in Montreal a second time?

THE SUBPLOTS: The Senators’ franchise record scoring drought ended Sunday against the Rangers, but their woes may not be solved just yet. All three tallies in that game came off the stick of a player (Chris Kelly) who isn’t known for offensive production. If the Senators have any hope of stringing a few wins together, they need more help from guys like Spezza, Alfredsson, Kovalev, Michalek and Fisher.

THE WILDCARD: Pascal Leclaire. As we’ve pointed out in this space before, coach Cory Clouston likes to stick with what works. With Elliott riding the bench Sunday due to a shoulder tweak and Leclaire’s strong outing, odds are he’ll be back between the pipes in his home province. The Senators really couldn’t go wrong with either goalie right now.

THE OPPONENT: The Canadiens are the surprise leaders in the Northeast Division and continue to prove the skeptics wrong. The main reason is the man protecting the Habs’ net. It’s hard to believe that a couple short months after Montreal fans booed Carey Price in preseason (then lined up at a mall for Jaroslav Halak autographs), the young netminder has emerged as one of the best in the NHL. His goals-against average reads 1.96 and his save percentage is a stellar .935, but his perseverance under pressure is even more impressive.

THE QUOTE: “We always like coming to play here (in Montreal). It’s a great atmosphere. There’s a good rivalry between the teams, we’re so close (geographically). We don’t want to look too far ahead. If you start looking two, three games down the road and forget about the ones in front of you, that’s never good.” — Sunday’s hero, Kelly, on keeping things in perspective.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — No injuries. Canadiens — D Andrei Markov (knee, out for season).

THE PREDICTION: One game doesn’t exactly qualify as a turnaround, so I think I’ll wait this one out. The Senators are facing another tough ‘tender in a hostile environment tonight, and until they string a few more goals together, I have a hard time taking them on the road. That said, Ottawa’s goaltenders are finally showing they can compete with the league’s elite, and that can result in two points on any given night. Should be a close one. Senators 2, Canadiens 3.

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