Ottawa - March 6, 2015 -
Who: Ottawa Senators
Where: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, ON
Know thine enemy: The Senators were in a weird position heading into the trade deadline and they aren’t any better off after it. They sit five points back of the Boston Bruins for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with several games in hand on other contenders, but they still have a ton of questions.
Goalie and arguable team MVP Craig Anderson was supposed to start in Winnipeg on Wednesday, but played the role of backup instead. Will he be ready to go tonight as the Senators, 6-0-1 in their last seven, try to remain hot? If not, they could stick with the scorching hot Andrew Hammond, who is 6-0-1 with a 1.35 goals against average and .957 save percentage during his short tenure this season.
Erik Karlsson is once again the top scorer in Ottawa, but the real problem for the Sabres has been Bobby Ryan. He’s second on the team with 17 goals and 48 points, but he’s been the Sabre-killer when the two have met. He’s played in two of the three games between the two sides this year, scoring four goals including his first hat trick as a Senator back on December 29th. Keeping him check will likely be priority #1 for Buffalo.
About the Sabres: It seems like a constant state of flux as far as the roster goes. Zac Dalpe hasn’t practiced and is attending to a family matter. Mikhail Grigorenko was recalled from Rochester on Thursday and skated with Brian Gionta and Marcus Foligno. Ted Nolan will take any warm body he can at this point.
In net, newly-acquired goalie Chad Johnson will get his first start as a Sabre. He’ll be the fifth goalie to man the nets for Buffalo this season and will have his work cut out for him given his 8-8-1 record, 3.08 goals against average and .889 save percentage on Long Island.
At this point, Ted Nolan is just trying to keep spirits from disappearing completely. The team is hands down the worst in the league both on paper and in the standings, half the team has been traded away and the other half is injured. There’s really not much to be done on the ice at this point other than hoping April 11th comes as quickly as possible.
The last time these two met: Back on February 9th, the Senators visited the First Niagra Center and walked away with a 2-1 victory. Power play goals by Karlsson and the now-departed Tyler Myers left things at 1-1 before Milan Michalek buried the game winner with less than seven minutes to go. Robin Lehner was outstanding on the night, turning aside 35 of 36 shots.
The part where I predict things: The race to the bottom is almost finished and it’s hard to see the Sabres winning more than a couple down the stretch. The Senators are riding a hot streak and need every point if they hope to see the playoffs. Makes it pretty easy to decide who gets this one.
Score: 3-1 Senators
Follow me on Twitter: @TwoPadStackRW