Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators on Nov. 27, 2010

The Ottawa Senators are once again in the midst of a damaging slump, dropping five of their last six games to fall back of the playoff bunch.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators on Nov. 27, 2010

THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators are once again in the midst of a damaging slump, dropping five of their last six games to fall back of the playoff bunch. While they finally played with a little urgency against the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday afternoon, they still headed back home empty-handed after a 2-1 loss. Both the Senators and Leafs tend to get up for the Battle of Ontario no matter what’s going on, so this should be another hard-fought tilt between two teams that are close to rolling off a cliff. Who will grab a branch Saturday night?

THE SUBPLOTS: What does a guy have to do get some goal support around here? Pascal Leclaire’s midseason is turning out a lot like the first couple of weeks, when he was outstanding but couldn’t win a game. So far this season, the Senators have put up a grand total of 14 goals in the eight games he has started. He is giving his team a chance to win…now it needs to come through for him.

THE WILDCARD: Daniel Alfredsson. When the Senators are getting ambushed, it’s usually the captain who rides to the rescue. They could use a hand Saturday night, considering how hard it’s been for them to find the back of the net lately. Ottawa is coming off consecutive 2-1 losses and Alfredsson is one of the players expected to pump up the production.

THE OPPONENT: Fortunately for the Senators, they aren’t the only participants in this game who had to play the day before. The Leafs dropped a 3-1 decision in Buffalo Friday night as top ‘tender Ryan Miller turned aside 35 shots. The loss extended the Leafs’ recent road woes — they’re winless in seven away from the Air Canada Centre. Of course, Scotiabank Place is kind of their home away from home anyways.

THE QUOTE: “It’s a close game and it’s tough right now. If you’re on a five -or six-game winning streak and you lose that one, it’s just a loss, but right now, we’ve got to find ways to win those tight games. We played pretty good. Marc-Andre played a good game today and made some good saves and it was a good up and down game.” — Leclaire, reflecting on another difficult loss Friday.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — No injuries. Leafs — W Colby Armstrong (finger/foot, indefinite), D Dion Phaneuf (leg laceration, indefinite), G J.S. Giguere (groin, 1-2 weeks).

THE PREDICTION: You have to believe the Senators will come out flying in this one, if only to avoid the capital firestorm if they lose to the hated Toronto Maple Leafs at home. That scenario would make it six losses in seven games and the calls for widespread change would be burning up the sports radio lines and the Twitterverse. The last time things were this bad, Senators general manager Bryan Murray threatened to start trading players. You can bet most of those players don’t want him to follow through. Senators 3, Leafs 2.

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