The return of Dany Heatley to the Ottawa Senators' lineup couldn't come at a much better time. Getting Daniel Alfredsson back is an added bonus.
Tonight, Heatley and Alfredsson will try to lead Ottawa to its sixth straight home win over the Montreal Canadiens as the top teams in the Northeast Division meet for the second time this week.
Heatley, the Senators' third-leading scorer, missed 11 games with a shoulder injury, and the Senators (33-18-4) managed only 31 goals while losing eight of them, including a 4-3 defeat to the Canadiens on Tuesday.
He was back in action Thursday, contributing two goals and an assist in a 5-4 win over Florida.
"I felt good," said Heatley, who has 27 goals and 59 points in 2007-08. "The first period was just to get back to game pace and a little bit rusty, but the second and third felt a little more comfortable and I got the timing and felt good."
The win, combined with Montreal's 4-2 home loss to Toronto, extended the Senators' division lead over the Canadiens to three points.
"We know the lead is tight here," Ottawa forward Mike Fisher told the Senators' official Web site. "We've got to do what we can to play desperate and start playing with a little more emotion."
Since joining the Senators in 2005 following a trade from Atlanta, Heatley has recorded points in each game at Scotiabank Place against the Canadiens, totaling seven goals and nine assists while leading Ottawa to an 8-2-0 record.
Alfredsson, the Senators' leader with 32 goals and 68 points, has missed the last four games with an injured hip flexor, but on Friday, the team said he would return in this game.
Alfredsson hasn't played since Jan. 29, when he logged an assist in just over 12 minutes during a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders in his first action following the All-Star game. He has three goals and eight assists during Ottawa's current five-game home win streak over Montreal.
The Senators have outscored the Canadiens 24-10 since last losing to them at home on Nov. 13, 2006.
Montreal's top line combined for nine points in Tuesday's win. Tomas Plekanec had two goals and an assist, while Andrei Kostitsyn had a goal and two assists and Alexei Kovalev notched three assists.
"They're just flying out there," Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek said. "I'm sure glad I'm not playing against those three guys. They just seem to be finding each other all over the ice. They have great chemistry and they're getting chances and they're burying them, so they're a big reason why we've had so much success this season."
Plekanec had a goal and an assist in Thursday's loss to the Maple Leafs, while Kovalev recorded his team-high 25th goal - the fifth time he's reached that mark.
Rookie Carey Price made 24 saves in his first game since being recalled from Hamilton of the AHL on Monday.
Cristobal Huet, who was in goal for the win over the Senators earlier this week, will likely face them again on Saturday. Huet, who's already registered a career-high 20 wins this season, is 1-4-0 with a 4.11 goals-against average in five career starts at Ottawa.