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HURRICANES (8-12-4) AT SENATORS (10-10-2)
TV: FS-CR, SNET-OTT, TVA
Last 10: Carolina 3-6-1, Ottawa 3-5-2.
Season series: Ottawa took the first meeting of the season 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 25. Carolina won the final three meetings last season by a combined 15-4 margin.
Big Story: A pair of slumping teams try to start moving back towards the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
Hurricanes: Things looked bleak in Raleigh heading into last weekend, but the Hurricanes collected victories against Toronto and at Philadelphia and things seemed to be going in the right direction. Now, the Hurricanes have lost two in a row and are again looking to get untracked.
Offense has definitely been an issue at times for Carolina. The Hurricanes have scored one or fewer goals in four of the past five defeats. The latest setback was a 3-1 loss at home to Winnipeg.
"They were just more physical than we were and faster than we were," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "The summary of what we did with the puck was foolish, and we just didn't compete hard enough."
Senators: Ottawa had shook off a five-game losing streak by winning three in a row, but the Senators have since dropped a 2-1 overtime decision at Vancouver before four days off and then a 6-3 defeat at Pittsburgh on Friday. The long layoff might have been a problem -- the Penguins ripped off four goals in less than eight minutes and held a 4-1 lead before the first period was halfway complete.
"I think the game was lost in the first five minutes by not being prepared to play," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "That's my responsibility to make sure the team is ready to play."
Who's hot: Jiri Tlusty had the lone goal for Carolina in the loss to Winnipeg and has tallies in back-to-back games after only two in his first 22 games. Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar did not play well last year, but he's got a point in five of the past six games and has 14 on the season.
Injury report: The Hurricanes have been without defenseman Joni Pitkanen for eight games because of a lower-body injury. Fellow member of the defense corps, Jay Harrison, was out against Winnipeg with an upper-body injury. Both are considered day-to-day. … The Senators are currently without right wing Chris Neil (sprained ankle), center Peter Regin (shoulder surgery) and defenseman Matt Carkner (knee).
Stat pack: Two areas the Hurricanes could use drastic improvements as a team are on the power play (29th at 12.2 percent) and shots allowed (tied for 25th at 32.0 per contest). Ottawa might be the right opponent for Carolina -- the Senators are 26th on the penalty kill (79.2 percent). The Hurricanes are third in the League in blocked shots with 216, but that’s another number that could come down with better defense/more puck possession.
Puck drop: Part of the reason for optimism this season in Raleigh was a few under-the-radar additions, plus the expected development of some young players. New additions Tomas Kaberle (no goals, minus-10) and Anthony Stewart (four goals, no assists) haven't worked out yet and promising rookie Zac Dalpe has no points in nine games and missed three weeks with an injury.
Alexei Ponikarovsky has been OK in his first season with Hurricanes, collecting five goals and eight points to this point. For the Hurricanes to return to playoff contention, more production from the newcomers would be a good start.
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