New York (16-18-7) at Ottawa (20-16-4)

Cloudy Currently: Kanata, ON
Temp: 59° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Thu Dec 31, 2009
  • TV: MSG+, RSNE
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Ottawa Senators might be happy to get this month and year over, and a visit from the last-place New York Islanders might be just what they need to enter 2010 on a positive note.

The Senators will try to continue their home dominance of the Islanders on Thursday night.

Ottawa (20-16-4) was tied with Boston atop the Northeast Division after beating Columbus 2-1 on Nov. 26. That promising 13-7-3 start appeared to signal the Senators could be a serious contender in the Eastern Conference after failing to reach the playoffs last season, ending an 11-season run that included their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in 2007.

The Senators, however, followed up that start by going 7-9-1 to fall into third place in the division, three points back of the second-place Bruins and eight behind Buffalo for first.

They failed to cut into the Sabres’ lead Wednesday night, falling 4-3 to Colorado despite holding a 30-20 shot advantage, including 12-5 in the third period.

“All our guys played well, you can’t really fault too many guys,” coach Cory Clouston said. “We generated 30 shots, we gave up 20. There’s not much more you can do.”

With captain Daniel Alfredsson(notes) and top center Jason Spezza(notes) sidelined with injuries, Ryan Shannon(notes) has helped fill the void. Shannon, who had a career-high eight goals last season, has four in the last three games following a two-goal performance in Wednesday’s loss to the Avalanche.

The right wing’s scoring surge has come after he failed to find the net in his first 29 games of the season.

“All the bounces I missed at the beginning of the year are going my way now. I don’t want to talk about it,” Shannon said, fearful of jinxing himself.

The Senators have dominated the Islanders at home, winning 20 of the last 29 meetings while tying four. They’ve won the last two, including a 3-2 victory on Oct. 8 when Mike Fisher(notes) beat goaltender Martin Biron(notes) 32 seconds into overtime.

The Islanders are last in the Atlantic Division, one point back of the fourth-place New York Rangers, but a fourth win in five games could be enough to move them ahead of their crosstown rivals.

Dwayne Roloson(notes) helped the Islanders continue their solid stretch Tuesday, as he made 41 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over Columbus.

Roloson, who will likely start Thursday, has been superb during a personal three-game winning streak, posting a 1.27 goals-against average.

New York’s only loss in its last four games came with Biron in net, 2-1 to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Roloson has been a major part of the Islanders’ modest success, going 14-7-5 with a 2.75 GAA in 26 games. However, he’s lost his last two games against the Senators, giving up 10 goals on 66 shots.

“He hasn’t had too many off nights,” coach Scott Gordon said. “Since the first month he’s really elevated his game and has given us a chance to win almost every game.”

New York, though, is struggling to score, ranking last in the NHL with 2.37 goals per game.

Those offensive issues have been evident on the power play, where the Islanders have converted only 1 of 37 chances over the past nine games. The unit ranks as one of the worst in the league with a 15.2 success rate.

Rookie John Tavares(notes) has cooled off considerably, tallying one goal and one assist in his last 10 games. Tavares, though, still leads the Islanders with 16 goals and 28 points.

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Thursday, Dec 31