Welcome back: Sens finally return home to battle Isles

The Ottawa Senators hope their first home game in nearly Star hosts welcome the New York Islanders for tonight's battle at Scotiabank Place.

The Senators, who staged the league's All-Star festivities last weekend, haven't played in Canada's capital city since Jan. 16, when they lost a 2-0 decision to Winnipeg. Ottawa then began a six-game road trip with two straight wins before losing the final four tests in regulation.

All told, Ottawa has played nine of 10 and 10 of its last 12 games away from Scotiabank Place, but tonight marks the start of a five-game homestand for the Sens, who are 14-9-1 as the host this season.

"It seems like forever since we've been at home, and now we get an opportunity to play the next five games at home," Senators head coach Paul MacLean told his team's website. "That's an opportunity for us to step up and that gives us confidence."

The Senators enter tonight as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, where they are two points behind Pittsburgh and one in front of New Jersey. Ottawa has also fallen six points behind Boston for the Northeast Division lead.

The Islanders, meanwhile, are trying to work themselves into the postseason picture. Despite a 4-1-1 record in its last six games, New York is still 11 points out of a playoff spot in the East.

Ottawa will likely have to slow down John Tavares if it wants to win tonight, as the young Islanders forward has been torching the competition of late. Tavares was named the NHL's First Star of the Month for January after posting nine goals and 13 assists in 13 games last month.

Tavares, who was the first overall pick of the 2009 draft, put an exclamation point on his terrific month this past Tuesday in Carolina, as he scored two goals, including the game-winner in the third period, en route to a four-point outing in a 5-2 win for the Isles. The 21-year-old is second on New York with 22 goals and is leading the club in points with 53.

"He's been playing extremely well, he's been doing a lot of good things and he's tough to stop," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said of Tavares.

Matt Moulson potted his team-leading 23rd goal of the year and also dished out two assists in the win over the Hurricanes. P.A. Parenteau and Kyle Okposo added a goal and an assist apiece, while Kevin Poulin made 21 saves in the victory.

The Islanders have won three of their last four road games, but are still just 9-11-3 as the guest this season.

The Senators played Tuesday in Boston and held a 3-1 lead over the defending Stanley Cup champions in the second period before the Bruins closed the game with three unanswered scores. The game-winner by Dennis Seidenberg came on a slap shot from center ice just over seven minutes into the third period.

Colin Greening, Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson scored for the Senators, while Craig Anderson stopped 26-of-30 shots.

"We scored three 5-on-5 goals against a really good defensive team. Five-on- five we were the better team, so it's frustrating to lose this one," said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson. "I don't know how we don't win it."

Tonight's tilt marks the first of four meetings between the Sens and Isles this season after the clubs split four encounters a year ago. Ottawa has taken six of nine overall in this series and the Sens had won four straight on home ice against New York until the Islanders posted a 4-3 shootout win on Feb. 15 of last season.