Senators-Canadiens Preview

The Associated Press

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators are undoubtedly experiencing a sense of deja vu.

One week ago, the division rivals headed into a weekend battle with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line. Montreal held a one-point edge over Ottawa.

Fast forward seven days and the situation hasn't changed.

While the Canadiens (41-24-9) swept the back-to-back, home-and-home set against the Senators to build a four-point cushion, an 0-1-1 record against the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes this week combined with Ottawa's wins against the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins brought the teams back to square one.

The clubs have split the season series thus far, with each side holding a 2-1-1 record heading into Saturday's season series finale at the Bell Centre.

"We know that we have to play better than we did in the last couple of games if we want to get back to winning hockey games," Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said after Friday's practice. "We're playing a team that since we played them last, they've been playing really well and they've picked up some big points.

"They're going to be excited coming into our building. We better be ready. The intensity level and the excitement level will be a little bit higher as well, so it adds some intensity to the game."

Claude Julien tweaked his lines ahead of the loss to Carolina and the change that saw Alex Galchenyuk move from top-line center to left wing with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen paid off. Galchenyuk scored Montreal's lone goal and the line showed potential.

But the Canadiens are still looking for top-end offensive contribution. Captain Max Pacioretty has been held off the scoresheet in five straight games and right winger Alexander Radulov has just two points in his last eight games and zero goals since Feb. 27.

"It's not about being pretty anymore," Radulov said. "It's just about getting to that area in the slot and maybe getting some dirty goals. Whatever it takes, you just have to battle and work hard."

Working hard is exactly what Senators winger Mark Stone has been doing in his recovery from a leg injury. Injured March 9 against the Arizona Coyotes, the 24-year-old was on a week-to-week recovery timeline. He hit the ice on two previous occasions before joining his teammates for Thursday's morning skate.

"I'm gunning for it," he told reporters on Thursday of potentially facing Montreal. "I want to be in that game. I know what (the magnitude) is to it, so I'm going to try everything I can over the next couple of days to get there."

Goals have been hard to come by for Ottawa (41-24-8) in recent weeks, with just 10 goals (excluding Thursday's shootout winner) in its past six games. Stone, who ranks second among Senators forwards in goals, assists, and points, would certainly provide a boost.

While there hasn't been a flood of offense, the power play has helped, connecting five times on 21 opportunities in the past seven games, for a 23.8 percent success rate.

"These times of the year it's hard to score goals," Senators captain Erik Karlsson said after Thursday's win. "Every guy on every team is low on energy and we're focused on defense first, so we get limited scoring chances.

"Today was a special-teams game and we both scored on power plays. We need to generate a lot on special teams to have a chance to win in tight games."

Ottawa will be without defenseman Marc Methot after he suffered a brutal finger injury after a slash by Sidney Crosby.

Craig Anderson gets the start in goal for the Senators and Carey Price will counter for Montreal.

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