The Ottawa Senators and the Detroit Red Wings meet each other tonight, as both teams desperately need a win, even if it's only for the sake of confidence, as the playoffs seem like a long shot.

Ottawa Senators are skating on broken iceEven while missing a big portion of their offence with injuries (including Pavel Datsyuk, Danny Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom), the Detroit Red Wings still have an offence that more than compensates for their leaky defence and scrappy goaltending.  And if that’s how they do without Datsyuk and Cleary, the Ottawa Senators will need to pull something special out of their collective asses if that pair return by Wednesday. 

That leaky defence now ranks at 18th in the NHL at 2.92 goals against per game. But the way the Senators are going, they only managed 19 goals in January, I foresee Ottawa performing below par and only getting a single goal, at best. 

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of their ranking. "We got to fix it. We had it going not bad at one time this year and probably in the last 20 games it hasn't been any good; our penalty-killing, our goals against and our save percentage, everything." 

Those of you who don’t consider the Devils to be a decent yard stick for comparison, or just want to get your bets in quickly, need only look at the current form of the Sens to guess what’s going to happen.  January was a bad month for Ottawa and the Senators only managed one regulation win all month, not a great start to 2011.  Plus Ottawa have lost seven straight at home and their goaltender Brian Elliott is 0-7-4 since they beat the Penguins on Boxing Day

Before they test their metal against the Red Wings, Ottawa have to take on the Devils. Expect them to be run ragged by the tough New Jersey side (which will leave them less than daisy-fresh when they face the Wings on Wednesday). If the Devils get off to a good start expect them to run out winners because the Sens have a 0-17-3 record in games in which they trail after two periods. 

More bad news for the Sens is that Alex Kovalev is an injury worry after taking a shot in the face on Tuesday while he sat on the bench.  Tough cookie that he is, he managed to finish the game, but it’s not yet known if he’ll be back on the ice on Wednesday night.  It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Ottawa who are now 17-25-8 (ahead of the Devils match) and look likely to be missing the playoff for the second time in three years.  They have no one but themselves to blame as they followed the mid-season break by going 1-6-3 and promptly plummeted to last in the Northeast Division. 

Last Tuesday, the Senators did manage a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo, when defenseman Sergei Gonchar ended the team's eight-game drought without a power-play goal, but that’s scant silver lining to the grey cloud that is 2011.  Captain Daniel Alfredsson is going back to basics in his team talks, "It's still a matter of us not scoring enough to really make it easier on ourselves and we're going to have to find a way to put more pucks in the net or it's going to be the same thing, a lot of tight games or we'll be behind." 

If I was forced to pick a winner between those two I’d go for the Devils.  So, if the Devils can beat the Senators and the Wings beat the Devils...why shouldn’t the Wings beat the Senators? 

Prediction: Wings win 4-1