The Ottawa Senators have struggled in shootouts this season, and especially whenever facing Pittsburgh. The Penguins, though, suddenly find themselves short-handed in net.
Winners of three straight after their longest skid since 1996, the Senators (19-7-3) look to snap a four-game losing streak to the Penguins on Thursday night.
The Eastern Conference-leading Senators are 1-3 in shootouts this season, and have never defeated Pittsburgh (15-13-2) following overtime. Ottawa is 0-3 in shootouts versus the Penguins, with all of those losses coming in its current skid against them.
In the only previous meeting this season, Pittsburgh beat Ottawa 6-5 in a shootout on Nov. 22. Dany Sabourin turned away four of the Senators’ attempts after overtime in that game, and almost certainly will start this game in place of Marc-Andre Fleury—who’s expected to miss up to two months with a sprained ankle.
Fleury was hurt early in the first period of a 3-2 shootout victory in Calgary last Thursday. The top overall pick in the 2003 draft had allowed just four goals while winning his last four starts before the injury.
“It’s tough, it’s tough,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said of Fleury’s injury. “First of all, he was playing the best hockey of the season before he was hurt. He was playing with a lot of confidence and was really sharp.”
Sabourin is 6-5-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average, but was pulled after allowing five goals through two periods of an 8-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday. Ty Conklin, recalled last Friday from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, will back up Sabourin.
Sabourin has 20 career starts over four seasons and Conklin has averaged 12.2 starts in five seasons. Therrien said he doesn’t expect the Penguins to add another goaltender.
Pittsburgh also will be without Maxime Talbot for a month due to an ankle injury similar to Fleury’s. Primarily playing on the fourth line, Talbot has seven goals and 11 points in 24 games.
Losing Fleury and Talbot is a setback for the Penguins, who have hovered around .500 after making the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001. Their first test will be against an Ottawa team coming off a 6-0 rout of Carolina on Wednesday.
The Senators’ Ray Emery started the game in goal, but left after facing only one shot due to soreness in his right hip. He got the win even though he was replaced by Martin Gerber, who stopped 31 shots.
Emery’s injury doesn’t appear serious, and Senators coach John Paddock said he expected him to be available to be Gerber’s backup Thursday.
“I was a little bit surprised, but I knew that he wasn’t right (during the morning skate),” Paddock said. “He had a problem with a sore right hip, and he was worried he was going to do something more serious to it.”
Gerber struggled against Pittsburgh last month, but won his only other two games against the Penguins and has a 3.57 GAA overall against them.
Ottawa’s Dany Heatley, who had two goals and an assist in the win over the Hurricanes, tallied a power-play goal in the earlier loss to the Penguins. He’s enjoyed tremendous success playing in Pittsburgh, where he’s registered points in seven of eight games here and has totaled six goals and six assists.
Ottawa has scored 15 goals during its winning streak following a seven-game slide from Nov. 21-Dec. 1.