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Blue Jackets-Senators Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- While both of their victories this season have come after overcoming first-period deficits, the Ottawa Senators would prefer not playing catch-up.
They might not have to worry about that with the NHL's only winless team coming to town.
Ottawa tries to win two straight for the first time this season Saturday night when it faces a Columbus Blue Jackets team off to its worst start in franchise history.
The Senators (2-5-0) scored four unanswered goals Thursday and snapped a three-game skid with a 4-1 win over Winnipeg, but the club was again playing from behind after giving up a first-period goal.
Ottawa, which overcame a two-goal first-period deficit in a 4-3 shootout victory over Minnesota on Oct. 11, has been outscored 14-2 in the opening 20 minutes of its seven games.
The club had not held a lead at any intermission until Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza gave the Senators a 2-1 advantage Thursday with second-period goals.
"It's a much better position to play with a lead," said Spezza, who also assisted on both of Michalek's scores. "As you see in the third period on (captain Daniel Alfredsson's) goal, it forces them to make the mistakes instead of us being the ones making mistakes. When you're down, you're trying to make something happen and that's when mistakes are made."
The Blue Jackets (0-6-1) have made plenty of those. Playing from behind after surrendering a pair of power-play goals in the opening 14:21, Columbus lost 5-2 to Detroit on Friday.
The club has dropped 13 straight since a 3-2 shootout win over Florida on March 29, and it has just one regulation victory in its last 29 contests.
"These guys are going to have to find a way to find the answers to get a win," coach Scott Arniel said. "The only answers are going to come from that room. We've got to stick together."
Improved special-teams play would also help. Defenseman Aaron Johnson provided a glimmer of hope Friday with a third-period power-play goal that trimmed the deficit to 3-2 with 18:18 left, but the Blue Jackets are 3 for 34 (8.8 percent) with the man advantage.
Columbus' penalty kill (69.2 percent) is among the lowest in the league after the Red Wings converted three times in five chances.
The Blue Jackets, who have two goals in each of their games, could face goaltender Craig Anderson, who had his best start of the season Thursday by stopping 35 shots for his 100th career win.
Anderson is 4-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average in his last four starts against the Blue Jackets.
Columbus' Steve Mason, who has allowed four or more goals six times during his personal 10-game losing streak, is 2-1-0 with a 1.65 GAA in three starts versus Ottawa.
He made 35 saves in the teams' only meeting in 2010-11, a Blue Jackets' 4-3 overtime victory at home Dec. 31.
Columbus will try to avoid losing its first four road games since opening 0-5-1 away from home in 2003-04.
Ottawa has won three of four at home in this matchup.
Updated October 22, 2011