Ottawa Senators (3-5-0) at Carolina Hurricanes (3-3-2)
RBC Center, 7 p.m.
TV: FS - Carolinas, TSN
The road trip is finally over the Canes are back home at the RBC Center for a showdown with the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa was projected to be one of the worst teams in the league this year but they are coming off two strong wins while the Canes have lost two straight including an ugly 5-3 loss at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets. Carolina has also blown two consecutive 2-0 leads in those losses and it can be traced back to them not giving a full 60 minute effort. Whether it was due to them sitting on a lead or committing one stupid penalty after another, the team has had trouble with keeping leads this season and this Ottawa team's most recent win came in a last minute comeback. If the Canes gameplan is anything similar to the last two, then a repeat of that may occur. *knocks on wood*
Some notes for tonight's game is that Anthony Stewart will not play tonight and Zach Boychuk was recalled in his place. I don't know where Boychuk will be in the lineup but I'm hoping he will see more than fourth line minutes because that will do little to benefit the team. This team is struggling to find wingers on the first line and I think Boychuk deserves a shot there. I mean, what does the team got to lose at this point? Ruutu, Ponikarovsky, Skinner and LaRose all struggled there and Staal seemed to work well with Boychuk when he was up with the big club last year. It makes sense to give him another chance there. Also, it will be a good chance to see if Boychuk will ever be a top six winger on this team or not. We already have Brett Sutter on the team to play fourth line minutes, someone who can play those minutes in Tlusty and a two-way forward in LaRose who can take over on the third line. Let's give Boychuk a chance.
On the Senators side of things, they are going to be without Daniel Alfredsson and Petr Regin tonight. Making what is a pretty weak forward corps even more depleted. Kaspars Daugavins was recalled to take Alfredsson's place on the second line. He isn't one of Ottawa's best prospects but he did play for Team Latvia in the Olympics. I'm sure the announcers on whichever feed you watch the game on will remind you of that.
Lines and analysis after the jump
Ponikarovsky - Staal - Boychuk
Ruutu - Jokinen - Skinner
LaRose - Sutter - Dwyer
Tlusty - Brent - Sutter
Pitkanen - McBain
Allen - Gleason
Kaberle - Harrison
Greening - Spezza - Michalek
Foligno - Zibenejad - Daugavins
Condra - Smith - Neil
Winchester - De Costa - Konopka
Phillips - Rundblad
Karlsson - Kuba
Gonchar - Cowen
Getting to know the Senators
The Sens are in full rebuild mode right now and have looked pretty ugly at times but they do have a couple solid victories under their belts, too. Their forward corps is pretty weak but they've seen some good play from Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, the latter having six goals already. Ottawa's also struck gold on the powerplay this year with a conversion rate of 29%. I'm going to be bold and say that won't sustain for much longer. Still, it's best the Hurricanes stay out of the box for tonight while the Senators are on a hot streak there. Also, Ottawa's penalty kill is at the complete opposite side of things as they've killed off under 70% of their penalties taken. That's partially due to a young defense corps (two rookies playing top minutes) a lack of proven defensive forwards up front. If I had to pick one guy to spot light other than Spezza and Michalek, it would be Erik Karlsson on the blue line. He has been nothing but impressive ever since being called up two years ago and another reason why Ottawa's powerplay has been so successful thus far. However, he gives up a ton of chances in his own end, too (on-ice for 12 goals this year). The porous defense has had a negative impact on goaltender Craig Anderson who has a sub-.900 save percentage after being so solid for them down the stretch last year.
- Spezza and Michalek are still very dangerous so the Allen-Gleason pairing are going to be matched up with them. If those two can keep Ottawa's first line at bay then there isn't much to worry about afterward. Zibenejad hasn't been too impressive in his NHL debut (may be sent back to junior soon) and he will probably look worse without Alfie on his wing. Condra-Smith-Neil can score sometimes but they aren't huge offensive threats and I'm pretty sure that Ottawa's blue line has more offensive potential than their entire bottom-six combined.
- According to Hockey-Reference, Ward is 8-6-0 against the Sens and has posted a .909 save percentage against them. That save percentage could be a lot better, I'll say that much.
- The lines I posted for the Hurricanes are purley speculative, but it would be nice to see Boychuk get a chance on the first line since he has a pretty favorable matchup here.
- With how well Ottawa's powerplay is performing and with how bad their penalty kill is, I have a feeling this is going to be a game that's decided by special teams. Stay out of the box, boys.
- The Senators have allowed an average of 5.4 goals in all five of their losses this year and only 2.3 in their wins. That sort of explains the defense/goaltending problem with this team.
- The Canes have posted 12 even strength chances in the first periods of their last two games. In the second, third in overtime periods, they have produced a combined 12 total chances at even strength. Uhhhh..yeah there's one stat that needs to improve.