Series (Game 1 of 6)

Ottawa leads 5-1

Game 1: Saturday, October 17th
Game 2: Tuesday, December 8th
Game 3: Monday, December 28th
Game 4: Saturday, January 16th
Game 5: Saturday, January 30th
Game 6: Monday, March 22nd

Senators 3

(5-2-0, 10 pts)

Canadiens 1

(2-5-0, 4 pts)

Coverage: CBC

7:00 PM ET, October 17, 2009

Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1 2 3 T
OTT 1 1 13
MTL 1 0 01

P. Leclaire (Senators - G): Saves: 27, Save Pct.: .964

D. Alfredsson (Senators - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

A. Kovalev (Senators - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Senators-Canadiens Preview


Both the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators remodeled their rosters in the offseason, but it's working out better for one club than the other in the early going.

Fresh off their most lopsided win in two seasons, the Senators look to send Montreal to a fifth straight regulation loss as former Habs standout Alex Kovalev makes his first return to Bell Centre on Saturday night.

While the Senators missed the postseason for the first time since 1996 last spring, the Canadiens barely qualified as the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed and were promptly swept by rival Boston.

Both teams have taken on new looks, with Ottawa trading Dany Heatley to San Jose for Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo. Michalek had his first NHL hat trick -- including two short-handed goals -- in the Senators' 7-1 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday.

"To see all the people standing and clapping for me was an awesome feeling," Michalek said. "Hopefully, there's many goals to come."

It was the team's biggest win since it beat Toronto 8-2 on April 3, 2008.

New goalie and Montreal-area native Pascal Leclaire, who was shipped from Columbus to Ottawa in March, made 16 saves as the Senators (4-2-0) won for the fourth time in five games, but he won't be getting most of the attention in his native province.

That will be reserved for Kovalev, who has two goals in his first six games with Ottawa after signing with the team in July. He had spent the last four-plus seasons with the Canadiens, racking up 264 points -- as well as 31 points in 33 postseason games in that stretch.

Dozens of fans organized outside Bell Centre this summer, pleading with Habs general manager Bob Gainey to re-sign Kovalev, who will likely get a warm response.

"I think that Alex has really left a mark on people and the hockey fans in Montreal, and the fact that he won't be returning with our team is a difficult and emotional separation for them," Gainey said at the time.

Montreal (2-4-0) also let several other veterans leave, including former captain Saku Koivu, but the team did its best to reload, adding forwards Michael Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez in various moves.

Despite those additions, the Canadiens have totaled 14 goals in six games, including just eight during a four-game losing streak. Dating to April, Montreal is 2-11-1 in its last 14 games, including the playoffs.

The latest was a 3-2 loss to Colorado in the Canadiens' home opener Thursday. The Habs were ultimately doomed by a lackluster second period in which they were outshot 11-6 and outscored 2-0.

"We were back on our heels in the second period and they were taking it to us and that's what happens," Gionta said.

Montreal won its first four games against Ottawa last season -- two in shootouts -- but lost the final two, including a 3-2 home defeat April 6.

Canadiens goalie Carey Price has two shutouts in seven career starts against the Senators, but he was chased after allowing four goals in just over a period in his last appearance against them, a 5-4 Montreal loss on March 19.

Leclaire earned a shutout in his only previous start at Bell Centre, making 31 saves in a 3-0 Blue Jackets win on Feb. 23, 2008.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson had three assists Thursday and has 28 points in his last 18 games against the Canadiens, but he has not scored a goal in 12 games in Montreal since Oct. 11, 2005.