A pair of teams playing without key offensive weapons will meet tonight in Ottawa, as the Senators host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Scotiabank Place.
The Penguins have played the last three games without superstar captain Sidney Crosby, who is once again bothered by concussion symptoms. Pittsburgh has dropped two of the last three games without Crosby and was dealt a 4-1 loss Tuesday by visiting Detroit. The former Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy winner missed 10 months with a concussion suffered last January and had 12 points in eight games this year before landing back on the shelf.
The Penguins were done in by a three-goal third period in their recent loss to the Red Wings. Danny Cleary scored twice for Detroit during the third-period barrage at CONSOL Energy Center.
"We had a couple mistakes, the last 10 minutes we played bad, and we had no chance to win," said Malkin
Although it won't be Crosby, Pittsburgh could get another player back from a concussion tonight, as Zbynek Michalek -- brother of Ottawa's Milan -- could play for the first time since Nov. 26. The defenseman has one goal and three assists and is a minus-eight in 14 games this season.
Penguins forwards Jordan Staal (lower body) and Joe Vitale (undisclosed) will also be game-time decisions after getting banged up in Tuesday's loss to Detroit.
Pittsburgh, which is tied with the New York Rangers for second in the Atlantic Division, has won three of its last four road games and enters tonight with a 9-7-2 away record this season.
The Senators, who are last in the Northeast Division with 32 points, have lost four of their last five games and are just 2-4-2 in December. Ottawa opened a four-game homestand on Wednesday, but was dealt a 5-2 loss by the Boston Bruins.
Daniel Paille netted a pair of third-period goals to lead the Bruins to the rout. The lopsided loss dropped Ottawa to 7-7-1 on home ice this season.
"It was a few bounces that were right there for us and they bounced over our sticks," said Alfredsson. "And when we did get them on our sticks, [Bruins goaltender Tim] Thomas made the stops."
Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar missed his third straight game with an upper body injury and is questionable for tonight. Gonchar, who spent five highly- productive seasons in Pittsburgh from 2005-10, has 19 points (2 goals, 17 assists) in 28 games this season.
Pittsburgh beat the Senators, 6-3, in the Steel City to kick off this four- game season series on Nov. 25. The Pens have taken two straight and four of five overall in this matchup, but Ottawa has four wins in the last six encounters at Scotiabank Place.