Senators-Avalanche Preview

The Associated Press

After putting together their longest winning streak of the season without their captain, the Ottawa Senators are about to get even stronger.

Jason Spezza is expected to return as visiting Ottawa goes for a fifth consecutive victory Wednesday night against the Colorado Avalanche, who could be without star rookie Nathan MacKinnon.

While the Senators (19-18-7) scored 15 goals in winning all four games during Spezza's absence, they're looking forward to getting him back on the ice.

"It is a little bit of pressure for him coming back, but we're confident in that we need him in the lineup," center Zack Smith told the NHL's official website. "We were waiting for him to get back and it's a good opportunity and for him there shouldn't be that much pressure on him, but he's the captain so he's probably going to feel it."

Spezza, limited to three points during a nine-game stretch before going down with a hip injury, has 11 goals and 19 assists in 39 contests.

"In the short term I want to make sure that wherever I play I make sure I kind of help the group out, but for the long term I know I have to get to playing good hockey," Spezza said. "We're all disappointed how the first half went. I don't think I had a very good first half or the group had a very good first half, but there are signs of things coming."

Erik Condra had a goal and an assist and Clarke MacArthur scored 58 seconds into overtime as Ottawa beat Montreal 4-3 on Saturday to open a four-game trek. Craig Anderson made 26 saves as the Senators snapped a four-game road losing streak.

"If you want to be considered an elite team you've got to be able to play anywhere," coach Paul MacLean. "We know we're not considered an elite team at this point, but that's what we're working towards and in order to do that you have to be good on the road. We believe our game is getting more consistent."

Set to face Colorado for the first time since a 7-1 defeat Oct. 13, 2011, the Senators have been outscored 22-12 during an 0-3-2 skid in the series.

The Avalanche (26-12-4) had won three straight before falling 4-3 to lowly Calgary on Monday. Paul Stastny scored and assisted on both of MacKinnon's goals before the rookie took a puck to the ankle late in the game, leaving his status for Wednesday unclear.

The 18-year-old MacKinnon, who also scored twice in Saturday's 4-3 win over San Jose, has six goals and an assist in the last five games. He leads all first-year players with 28 points.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who stopped just 15 shots Monday, is 0-4-0 with a 4.79 goals-against average since Dec. 8 after opening 7-0-0.

"We may not have had the jump that we should have, but Giggy should have been better," coach Patrick Roy said. "He hasn't played well in the past four or five games. ... He needs to be better and we need to have him playing better. Period."

Giguere has gone 7-3-1 versus Ottawa while compiling a 1.89 GAA, his second-lowest mark against any team. Anderson, traded from Colorado to the Senators during the 2010-11 season, has allowed a combined 12 goals in going 0-2-0 against his former team.

Anderson owns a 1.99 GAA during his season-best five-start winning streak.

"It's fun to win and we're continuing to get better," he said. "Winning is a habit and it's hard work, and every day we need to work at it. We can't just come to the rink and expect it to happen."