Ottawa - December 29, 2014 -
Who: Ottawa Senators
Where: Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata, ON
Know thine enemy: The Senators are looking to end a three-game skid, having lost in overtime to the Red Wings on Saturday. The Senators are average in every way possible, sitting in the middle-to-late teens in both goals for and against as well as on special teams. Where they struggle, however, is keeping shots away from the net, allowing 33.6 per game.
The tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner have done a solid job, with Anderson posting a stellar .928 save percentage. Unfortunately for them, offense comes in fits and bursts. If anyone thought Mike Hoffman would be leading the team at this point with 11 goals, congratulations, you’re the best at predicting things. Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson continue to battle for the team lead in points with 23 while Bobby Ryan continues to flash moments of brilliance with frustrating bouts of inconsistency.
Injuries continue to be a problem for the Sens, with key defenseman Marc Methot only having suited up for two games this year thanks to a back issue, while Zach Smith and Chris Neil have missed extended time. On a roster already struggling to create and defend, losing regulars out of the lineup will only exacerbate that issue.
About the Sabres: A hearty “welcome back” to the real Buffalo Sabres, who recently ended a four-game losing streak with a frantic comeback against the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Miraculously, the struggles haven’t been because the offense has fallen off the map. Granted, they were outscored 10-2 in back-to-back losses to Winnipeg and Colorado, but they managed three goals each in losses to Boston and Detroit. Drew Stafford continues to quietly plug along, picking up three assists in his last three and Chris Stewart continues to up his trade value with a pair of goals and an assist over his last three. The real surprise, though, has been grinder Nicolas Deslauriers. He’s got points in his last three games, with a pair of goals and assists to his name.
The real problem has been that, not only is the defense still not good, but they’re dealing with injury issues and Jhonas Enroth has come back to Earth. That’s not to say he’s been bad, but part of the reason the Sabres were so hot is because he was playing out of his mind. They were being outshot (sometimes by a 2-1 margin) and were still pulling out wins because of Enroth. Now, he’s seemingly more human and it’s showing in the results.
The last time these two met: The Sabres blew a lead heading into the third period, needing a late goal from Brian Flynn to send it to overtime and, later, the shootout. There, Matt Moulson was the only one who managed to score, giving the Sabres their fourth consecutive win and 10th in 13 games.
This was during a stretch when Jhonas Enroth was playing as lights out as possible and the Sabres forwards, not generating many shots, were opportunistic with the ones they were generating.
The part where I predict things: It’s hard to really peg where the Sabres are at this point. They’re a resilient bunch – comebacks have become something of a forte of theirs this year – but they’re also prone to being badly outshot and outplayed.
Really, it comes down to the performance they get in net, be it from Enroth or Michal Neuvirth. If they get a strong performance, they’ll have a shot to win. If they get anything less than excellence, they’ll likely lose, probably by multiple goals. They’re not facing the hottest opponent, though, so it should be anyone’s game.
Score: 3-2 Senators
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