The Canadiens are the itch the Senators can’t scratch

The Montreal Canadiens may have given up hope on a playoff spot a long time ago, but there’s something about them that brings out the worst in the Ottawa Senators.

Coach Paul MacLean was scratching his head about in Thursday, hoping he can find a solution in the home-and-home rematch Friday at Scotiabank Place. The Canadiens beat the Senators 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday.

“We have real good success playing against the (New York) Rangers and real good success playing some other teams, but when we play montreal, we can’t seem to get anything going against them,” MacLean said following Thursday’s practice. “That’s a credit to them. We’re a real good skating team and we don’t seem to be able to skate against them for some reason. We play slower, but they do a better job defensively. It’s a combination of factors.”

Big Ben Bishop will be back in goal for the Senators, making his fourth consecutive start. After winning his first two starts with Ottawa, he has lost his past two, both in a shootout.

Bishop was one of many players who were given Thursday off from practice because the Senators are in a stretch of three games in four nights. The Senators return to Scotiabank Place Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jason Spezza says the Senators are in no position to look past either the Canadiens or the Maple Leafs, even if they won’t make the playoffs.

“We’re all wired the same way, you’re not wired to give up or quit,” he said. “You’re wired to continue to play and prove people wrong. But with that in mind, we have to stay focussed and try to pick up as many points as we can to help out our cause and not worry about them.”

 JUST CATCHING UP ON OLD TIMES?: Despite the stickwork and punches they threw at each other during Wednesday’s games, it turns out that the Senators’ Erik Karlsson and Montreal’s Lars Eller are good friends, dating back to their days playing together in the Swedish Elite League. After the two exchanged some dirtiness on the ice and were sent to the penalty box, TSN cameras picked up the two arguing, diplomatically. “We played together for two years, we know each other well,” said Karlsson. “Sometimes, you’re going to get into arguments, even with your best friend. There’s nothing more to stay about it. We both got – how do you say it? — our share of jabs in. It’s over with now. It’s fine. We’re adults.”

 ALL GOOD FOR FOLIGNO: The Buffalo Sabres 5-4 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday was almost the best of both worlds for Senators winger Nick Foligno. On one hand, his younger brother, Markus, scored twice with their father, Mike, in the seats in Buffalo. Markus also performed the infamous Foligno family jump on the first goal. “I was pretty impressed to see that and I talked to all my family, I’m happy he got to do the jump for the Buffalo fans and it was special for my Dad, too,” said Nick. Yet the Sabres blew a 4-3 lead with 0.07 seconds remaining, lost in the shootout and picked up only point. That left them seven points behind the Senators in the fight for a playoff spot. “He’s my brother, but he’s also a guy on the other team and it’s nice to see they didn’t get that extra point,” said Nick.

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