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Saturday's Video Coach | Newbury | Frogren | Antropov | Sifers
Mike Ulmer with the news from practice on Friday
The Ottawa Senators had gone two full months without winning a road game before finally breaking through in their last contest of 2008.
If they don't continue their improvement, it could be a slow start to the new year.
Fresh off the end of their 12-game road losing streak, the Senators will visit Toronto on Saturday looking to make it back-to-back victories as they play the fifth of eight straight road games.
Ottawa opened the season by winning three of its first four road games. But after a 2-1 victory at Florida on Oct. 30, it went 0-10-2 in its next 12 on the road, getting shut out three times and outscored 43-17 over that span.
After losing the first three games of their current trip, the Senators (13-17-5) finally pulled out a win on Tuesday, beating Edmonton 3-2 behind Brian Lee's third-period game-winner. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson each had a goal and an assist for Ottawa.
"I'm happy for the players," Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said. "They're the ones who have to play every night and they knew what was over our heads with the losing streak on the road."
Scoring goals has been a problem all season long for the last-place Senators, whose 82 goals are the fewest in the NHL. But offense has been all but nonexistent for them on the road, where they have scored two or fewer goals in 12 of their 17 road games. They still play at New Jersey, Buffalo and Boston on their current trip.
Ottawa had dropped eight of 10 overall going into Tuesday's game, but Martin Gerber made 20 saves and the Senators needed to kill just one penalty.
"For us it felt like a playoff game," said Spezza, one of just three Ottawa forwards with more than 12 points, along with linemates Alfredsson and Dany Heatley.
"We were desperate, we were struggling and we're down on ourselves," Spezza added. "Our confidence isn't very high right now and we're pulling at straws to find positives. We needed this win."
Their struggling provincial rivals could also use one, with the Maple Leafs (15-17-6) entering Saturday's game having dropped four of their last five. Ontario's two teams hold down the bottom two spots in the Northeast Division.
Toronto, which ranks 28th in the league with a 3.50 team goals-against average, has been outscored 23-9 in its last five games. Thursday's 4-1 home loss to Buffalo didn't help, as Curtis Joseph allowed four goals on just 20 shots.
Starter Vesa Toskala will likely return to the crease against Ottawa, but he hasn't been any better, losing his last three starts and compiling a 5.37 GAA in his last five.
"We need a spark from our goaltending, to say the least," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "They have to be a little more consistent than they have been, but that's in general for everybody. We've got to do a better job defensively (and) get some timely saves."
The Leafs have done well holding down Ottawa this season, giving up just three goals while going 1-0-1 in the series. That includes a 3-2 home win on Oct. 25.
Toronto has gone 5-1-1 in its last seven against the Senators, with Toskala in net the entire time. He has a 2.40 GAA and two shutouts over that span.
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