NHL Hockey

Senators take on formidable challenge against Predators

OTTAWA -- The 2018-19 Ottawa Senators know how difficult it is to beat Pekka Rinne.

What they probably don't realize is that the Nashville Predators veteran goalie has dominated their team for years.

Rinne has an 8-3-0 career record against the Senators that includes victories the last seven times he has faced them.

In his last five wins over Ottawa, he has allowed just four goals.

When the teams met Dec. 11 in Nashville, Rinne muffed a backhand by Zack Smith at the 26-second mark of the first period, then was flawless the rest of the way, stopping the next 25 shots in a 3-1 victory.

With a comfortable seat on the end of the bench to watch Juuso Saros defeat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday, Rinne is sure to get the call when the Predators visit the Senators on Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.

The 36-year-old will be trying to build on a remarkable season that sees him with a 14-5-1 record and with a league-leading 1.96 goals-against average, the only starter in the league below 2.00. His .929 save percentage is also tops among all goalies who have played in at least 20 games.

"I don't know how he does it," Predators coach Peter Laviolette told The Tennessean. "He's getting older and you wouldn't know it. It doesn't seem to affect him."

The Predators (22-10-1) are riding a three-game winning streak. The visit to Ottawa marks the first of a four-game road trip that includes stops in Chicago 24 hours later, Philadelphia on Dec. 20 and Boston on Dec. 22.

The Senators (14-16-4) are coming off their third 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in 12 days. They have won just two of their last five games but can take solace in the fact they're returning to friendly confines after a three-game road trip. Ottawa has one of the best home records in the Eastern Conference at 10-5-3.

The Senators could also be getting some help. Signs are pointing to the return of center Matt Duchene, who was the team's leading scorer with 34 points when he was knocked out of the lineup with a groin injury on Dec. 6. It's also looking like defenseman Mark Borowiecki could be back in the lineup for the first time since exiting Nov. 21 with an upper-body injury.

The Senators could use the reinforcements. They led the Canadiens 2-1 after two periods on Saturday before giving up four straight goals in the third period. Coach Guy Boucher put the fade on the fact that it was their second game in 24 hours and they were playing a "fast" team.

"We let them come at us in waves," winger Bobby Ryan told reporters. "We didn't have a match for their energy and the number of pucks they put on net. We sat back a little too much. We were a stick-length away all night."

After the game against Nashville, Ottawa is off until it travels to play New Jersey on Dec. 21 and returns home to host Washington on Dec. 22. The Senators then have a five-day Christmas break before visiting the New York Islanders on Dec. 28 and then returning home to again entertain the Capitals on Dec. 29.

Updated December 16, 2018

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