The Ottawa Senators have a date with the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins tonight in Pittsburgh. The Senators will have three injured players back in the lineup, with Pascal Leclaire getting the start in goal and Chris Neil and Shean Donovan back on patrol up front.
Leclaire has been out for a month after suffering a fractured cheekbone, while Neil has recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him for the previous 15 games. Donovan had been out since November 20 with a knee injury.
"I'm really excited, especially to get a chance to do it before Christmas," said Leclaire about coming back. "It's been a long time, one of those freak things, but it's behind me and it's just great being around the guys again and getting a chance to play."
Neil was thrilled to be back on the ice instead of sitting upstairs.
"I hate watching games," Neil said. "It's frustrating when you know you'd like to be out there contributing in whatever way you can."
Coach Cory Clouston said he was looking forward to having these players back, noting that the team really missed Neil's grit.
"He brings an element of physical play that is tough to replace," Clouston said. "He leads our team in hits by forwards, he's an intimidating player. And he's played very well - he's chipped in the odd important goal."
It's the first of the club's two trips to Mellon Arena this season. Ottawa has won three straight games in Pittsburgh.
The Senators were blanked on Monday in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.
The Senators have dropped two straight on the road and are just 5-9-1 as the visiting club this season. Ottawa will visit Buffalo on Saturday to wrap up a brief two-game road trip.
The Penguins and Ottawa have split two meetings this year with both matchups taking place in Canada's capital city. The Sens slammed Pittsburgh, 6-2, when the clubs last met on Nov. 19 to post their seventh win in the last nine games against the Pens. Ottawa has won three straight and seven of its last eight in the Steel City.