Senators-Bruins Preview

The Associated Press

Zdeno Chara and Daniel Alfredsson won't have quite as much talent at their disposal as they captain opposing teams for the second straight game.

They'll have more to play for, though, as Chara's Boston Bruins look to extend their Northeast Division lead Tuesday night with a seventh consecutive win over the visiting Ottawa Senators.

Chara's club also beat Team Alfredsson 12-9 in the All-Star game Sunday, but the Bruins captain said he was rooting for his counterpart to complete a hat trick in front of his hometown fans. Alfredsson finished with two goals and an assist.

"Alfie's such a classy guy, obviously a big icon in Ottawa and Sweden, as well, and such a great player to represent this team," Chara said. "So of course I was pulling for him."

On Tuesday, however, Chara will be trying much harder to keep Alfredsson - not to mention All-Star teammates Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek - off the scoresheet. A series of injuries to the Senators' leader may be part of the reason Boston has won six straight in the series by a combined 24-8, with Alfredsson missing four of those games.

The Bruins (31-14-2) have scored five goals in each of their two wins over Ottawa this season. Tim Thomas, the winner for the fourth straight All-Star game Sunday, was in net for both to improve to 16-3-0 with a 1.55 goals-against average in his last 19 against the Senators.

Ottawa (27-19-6) probably must turn the tide in the head-to-head series to have any chance of catching the Bruins for the division title. While the Senators are within four points, they've played five more games than Boston, which is two points behind the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions may be more concerned with regaining their consistency following a shaky stretch heading into the break. After winning 25 of 30, the Bruins were 3-3-1 during a busy 11-day span, capped by a 5-3 loss at Washington last Tuesday.

"Not a very good game for us to end with before the break, there's no doubt," coach Claude Julien said. "Probably the positive thing is we've got five days to think about that and come back hopefully refreshed, rejuvenated and playing with a lot more energy."

The Senators also stumbled into the break, totaling four goals in three consecutive regulation losses in California and Arizona. Spezza, the team's top scorer, was held without a point during the slide and would match his longest drought of the season without one Tuesday.

Still, the team is tied for fifth in the East just one season after barely avoiding the conference cellar.

"The way this year has kind of developed for us has been really good. (Karlsson, Spezza and Michalek) have definitely led the way for us as a team this year to surprise everybody, pretty much," Alfredsson said after the All-Star game. "And then to have a weekend like this is surreal. You can never dream of anything like this."

Ottawa will return to reality with a sixth straight road game and ninth in its last 10 contests, while the Bruins will be happy to begin a three-game homestand after playing six of their last seven away from home.

Boston is 14-2-2 at TD Garden since Nov. 1.

The Bruins will be without Nathan Horton, who is still feeling the effects of a concussion, and Andrew Ference as he finishes a three-game suspension.

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