Red Wings-Senators Preview

The Associated Press

With three straight wins by a combined score of 14-2, the Detroit Red Wings are playing possibly their best hockey of the season.

If it's going to continue Sunday in Ottawa, they're going to have to figure out the Senators, who have handed the Red Wings two losses in the past six weeks by a combined 10-3 score.

Detroit (13-7-7) has strung together back-to-back five-goal wins. Friday's 5-0 road victory over the New York Islanders featured two-goal performances by Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson.

"It's great to see guys scoring goals and gaining confidence," coach Mike Babcock said. "And our goaltender had a dominant performance."

Jimmy Howard made 29 saves to earn his second shutout of the season. He'd been given a two-game break after going 0-3-4 with a 3.03 goals-against average in his previous seven starts.

"When you score goals and get great goaltending, you feel better and better as a team," Alfredsson said. "Our hard work going forward will be the key for us."

Alfredsson, who spent the first 17 years of his career in Ottawa, has five points during the three-game winning streak which dates to last Saturday's 4-2 home loss to the Senators. He missed that matchup with a sore groin after going pointless in a 6-1 defeat to his former team Oct. 23, and now the ex-Senators captain returns to Ottawa for the first time since signing a one-year deal with Detroit in July.

It wasn't the smoothest of departures, but Senators coach Paul MacLean expects a positive reception from the crowd.

"I know we've moved on, I know Daniel's moved on," MacLean told the team's official website. "This gives the fans an opportunity to move on and I think it'll be good for everybody."

MacLean is more concerned about his current players, with Ottawa (10-12-4) having lost five of seven while allowing 28 goals. The Senators surrendered four straight second-period goals in Thursday's 5-2 loss to Vancouver.

"We don't play hard enough on the forecheck," MacLean said. "We don't play hard enough coming back. We don't play hard enough defensively. Our goaltenders aren't playing hard enough. We're just not playing hard enough for long enough to have an opportunity to win."

Craig Anderson was replaced midway through the second period after allowing four goals for the fourth straight game. He has a 4.36 GAA in his last nine starts, though he did win at Detroit in October with 31 saves.

Robin Lehner started the more recent matchup, stopping 34 shots, as part of an eight-game stretch during which he's 4-2-1 with a 2.14 GAA.

Howard hasn't been nearly as good and was awful in losing both games against the Senators, getting pulled in the first period of the first meeting and allowing four goals in the last one.

All three of Detroit's goals in those games came on the power play against a Senators' penalty-killing unit which has been terrible. Ottawa has allowed 13 power-play goals in its opponents' last 35 chances.

Detroit will be without center Pavel Datsyuk for a fourth straight game after he was elbowed in the jaw by Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen last week. Todd Bertuzzi could return after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

Ottawa left wing Bobby Ryan has three goals and an assist against the Red Wings this season.

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