Senators-Canadiens Preview

The Associated Press

The Ottawa Senators seem to have a good chance of picking up a quick four points with their next two games against the Montreal Canadiens, who are last in the Eastern Conference.

The Senators, however, know better than to overlook their Northeast Division rivals.

Ottawa, which has lost two of three to the Canadiens this season, tries to avoid a letdown Wednesday night when it visits Montreal in the opener of a home-and-home set.

The Senators (36-25-9) are in the mix for first place in the Northeast as well as one of the final East playoff spots. While Ottawa is 9-3-2 since Feb. 9, the Canadiens (27-32-11) have dropped eight of 11 and are relegated to playing spoilers.

"They're dangerous," Senators left wing Nick Foligno said of Montreal. "They're playing desperate. Desperate hockey teams are hard to play against. We have to be at our best."

Ottawa hasn't played its best in its first three games against the Canadiens.

The Senators earned a 3-2 shootout victory in Montreal on Jan. 14 after being outscored 8-3 in losing the first two at home. Ottawa's top three goal scorers - Milan Michalek (32), Jason Spezza (29) and Daniel Alfredsson (22) - have combined for two goals in the three games with Spezza the only one to light the lamp.

The Senators, who have won six of the last eight meetings in Montreal, will have a new face in goal for this one.

With Craig Anderson (finger) still sidelined, Ben Bishop is expected to make his fourth straight start between the pipes. Acquired from St. Louis before the trade deadline, Bishop had 38 saves in Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to Buffalo after stopping 50 of 54 shots in winning his first two starts.

"When Craig went down the uncertainty makes you cautious," coach Paul MacLean said. "As a coach you like knowing, you don't like hoping. Right now we know we're going to get good goaltending and that makes us all feel a little better."

Bishop, who had made only eight career starts prior to being acquired by Ottawa, has never faced the Canadiens.

While MacLean seems to be comfortable with Bishop in goal, Erik Karlsson has given the offense a boost.

Karlsson scored twice Saturday, giving him 10 goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games. The NHL's leading scorer among defensemen has 18 goals but none against Montreal with one assist in the season series.

The Canadiens return home from a 2-1-1 trip capped by Monday's 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo. Montreal seemed like it wasn't going to get a point against the Sabres, but David Desharnais scored on a scramble in front of the net with five seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.

"There's no quit in this team," said backup Peter Budaj, who stopped 33 shots. "There's a lot of pride and a lot of commitment to the team, to the logo, to the organization and fans."

Carey Price is 2-6-0 with a 3.01 goals-against average since Feb. 19 and is expected to make his fourth start of the season against the Senators. He is 6-1-1 with a 1.62 GAA and a shutout versus Ottawa since the start of last season.

Max Pacioretty, Montreal's leader with 30 goals and 57 points, has five goals and six assists during a six-game point streak. His lone goal of the season against the Senators came in the final minute of the most recent meeting to force overtime.