Senators, Thrashers have something to prove
What's at stake
For the Senators, Tuesday's home game is a chance to show that their three-game winning streak isn't a fluke, and that they're a viable contender for the Northeast Division crown (as well as a playoff contender). Also on their to-do list is to prove their early-season struggles (1-4-1 over the first six contests) were the result of a rash of injuries (Jason Spezza, Filip Kuba, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson have all spent time, or are currently on the injured reserve) and not a case of caustic team chemistry.
The Thrashers also want to be taken seriously — while they have just one loss in regulation over the past seven games, they haven't exactly been able to get the job done in extra time, going 3-1-3 in that span. If their Blackhawks-inspired off-season makeover is to be a success, Atlanta needs to measure themselves against the other division rivals that also missed the post-season last year (Tampa Bay, Carolina). So far, the team is holding its own, but a regulation win could give it a boost.
By the numbers
Atlanta — (6-5-3)
- Goals scored: 44
- Goals against: 51
- Current streak: L2
Ottawa — (7-6-1)
- Goals scored: 36
- Goals against: 40
- Current streak: W3
Puck drop: 7:30 p.m. ET
Rink: Scotiabank Place
Players to watch
Atlanta — Nik Antropov
Kazakhstan's finest hockey player has had a relatively slow start to the 2010-11 campaign following off-season hip surgery. Antropov has a mere three goals and three assists in 13 games, not sparkling numbers for a former first-line centre. He's also becoming a defensive liability, holding a minus-10 rating so far this year.
Ottawa — Alex Kovalev
The onus is on the 37-year-old to prove his production as of late (5G, 6 GP) isn't a repeat of last year's campaign where he seemed to fall asleep (statistically speaking, of course) for long stretches of the year, only to rouse from his slumber with the odd hat-trick. Also on the horizon is a personal milestone — Kovalev is just three points shy of recording his 1,000 career NHL point.
Atlanta — Ondrej Pavelic or Chris Mason
Pavelic was in net for the Thrashers' last game, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The 23-year-old goalie fell to a career 0-for-6 record in the skills competition, but has a .922 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average. Mason (3.45 GAA, .900 SV%) may get the call as he's won his last three starts. The challenge for both goalies will be keeping their teammates in line for a regulation win.
Ottawa — Brian Elliott
Elliott has continued to backstop the Senators in the place of the injury-plagued Pascal Leclaire. Elliott has won five of his past six starts and posted a 2.89 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Atlanta: Bryan Little (concussion, facial lacerations), Freddy Meyer (mid-body injury)
Ottawa: Milan Michalek (knee), Filip Kuba (leg) — both are questionable for Tuesday's game.
What they said
"We've gone through a lot of adversity as far as injuries are concerned and, to me, that's a credit to the players. The guys have handled it and dealt with it very, very well. To me, that's going to give us some positive outcomes as the season goes along." — Senators coach Cory Clouston on the team's official website