The Ottawa Senators face an uphill battle in matching last season's surprising run to the playoffs but they will have a chance to close the gap on one of the teams in front of them when they host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
The Senators relied on the stellar goaltending of Craig Anderson a year ago, but they have surrendered 191 goals this season - the second-highest total in the Eastern Conference. Anderson is expected to miss Thursday's game due to the birth of his second child.
The Red Wings gave up a last-minute tying goal but recovered to win at Montreal on Gustav Nyquist's overtime tally on Wednesday night. With captain and leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg expected to miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing back surgery, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said his team has to alter its style.
"If you’re looking for us to get a touchdown, you’re watching the wrong team," Babcock said. "If you’re looking for us to check well, that’s what we are.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network, FSN Detroit, RSNE, TVA (Ottawa)
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (27-20-12): Former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will return to Ottawa for the second time since signing with Detroit in the offseason and will look to duplicate his previous visit, when he had a goal and an assist in the Red Wings' 4-2 win on Dec. 1.
Detroit's offense received a much-needed boost with the return to the lineup of Johan Franzen, who had been sidelined for 22 of the past 23 games due to a concussion. Franzen assisted on both goals Wednesday night in his first action in one month to give him nine goals and 16 assists in 32 games.
ABOUT THE SENATORS (26-22-11): Robin Lehner is expected to get the start in net and will be staring at a sea of familiar faces - six Detroit players were teammates of Lehner on Sweden's silver medal-winning Olympic squad. Of course, Lehner has the luxury of playing behind stud defenseman and fellow Team Sweden member Erik Karlsson, who leads Ottawa - and NHL defensemen - with 55 points and expressed optimism that the Senators will make a playoff charge.
"It feels like everybody's on the same page, we're going to get there somehow," Karlsson said.
1. Senators F Bobby Ryan, who had a team-high 21 goals, has scored three times in three games against Detroit this season.
2. Red Wings G Jonas Gustavsson takes a 3-3-0 record and 2.20 goals-against average into Thursday's start.
3. The Senators recalled G Andrew Hammond on an emergency basis from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.