Game 36: Ottawa Senators @ Carolina Hurricanes

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The Ottawa Senators are three games over .500 for the first time this season and will attempt to make it four games over .500 with a win in Carolina tonight. The Hurricanes have been struggling badly for pretty much the whole season. After starting the season 5-4-3, the Hurricanes have lost 18 of their last 23 games going 5-15-3. The Senators on the other hand have won three in a row and five out of their last six. Ottawa is currently sitting in seventh place in the eastern conference, tied on points with sixth place Toronto.

Mike Hoffman will make his NHL debut tonight and Brian Lee is expected to be the healthy scratch. The Senators did not practise and as Hoffman is a skilled player replacing a fourth line player in Jesse Winchester, there will likely be some shuffling in the lines. Here are my complete guesses:

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Erik Condra
Mike Hoffman - Zack Smith - Bobby Butler
Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Chris Neil

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Craig Anderson (starter)
Alex Auld

Talking points and statistics after the jump.

Here are my talking points for tonight:

  • Strong finish before Christmas: The Senators are rolling and play quite frankly a terrible team tonight. You wouldn't think Ottawa would be simply too good for many teams at the start of the season, but this is one of those games. The Senators did play last night and have to travel to Carolina, so the possibility of them putting in a disappointing performance is there. A win would guarantee that the Senators go into the break as the seventh seed at worst and possibly as high as sixth.
  • Mike Hoffman's NHL debut: Hoffman is going to make his NHL debut and it will obviously be interesting to see what he he can do. He struggled in his first season of professional hockey last year, putting up 25 points in 74 games and even being sent to the ECHL for a short period. This season he already has 17 points in 32 games and earned himself a game with the big club. He will wear #68. A Jaromir Jagr fan perhaps?
  • Karlsson's incredible point run: Erik Karlsson plays defence. He has played 35 games. He has 33 points in those games. That's an incredible 77 points pace. Only two defencemen have had that many points in the last 15 years: Brian Leetch with 79 in 2000-2001 and Nicklas Lidstrom with 80 in 2005-2006. Karlsson would also be the 24th different defenceman in NHL history to hit 77 points in a season. Karlsson has also been very consistent, a three-game points drought from 1 November to 5 November the only time all season he didn't register a point in back-to-back games.
  • Alfie looking for #400: Daniel Alfredsson might now only be the second best Swedish player on Ottawa, but he is also red hot. The captain has nine points in the last four games and 16 points in the last 12 games. His 25 points in 29 games are closing in on almost a point per game pace, incredible for a 39 year old. His next goal will be the 400th of his illustrious career.
  • Dominating the Southeast division: Ottawa is 0-2-1 against the Washington Capitals but a perfect 7-0-0 against the rest of the division. The Senators are 2-0 against the Hurricanes, Panthers and Jets and 1-0 against the Lightning. Can they continue that tonight?
  • Two bad defensive clubs: Ottawa and Carolina are tied for second last in the NHL with 3.37 goals allowed per game. Ottawa also tends to score a lot. Could see a lot of goals tonight.
Here are the 2011-2012 comparative statistics for the Senators and the Hurricanes:

Category Ottawa Enemy - Carolina
Value Rank Value Rank
Goals For per game 3.06 7th 2.54 19th
Goals Against per game 3.37 28th 3.37 28th
5 on 5 GF/GA ratio 0.92 20th 3.37 25th
Shots for per game 31.0 10th 30.0 16th
Shots against per game 31.5 24th 31.3 22nd
Power play % 18.4 13th 13.2 28th
Penalty kill % 79.2 25th 78.4 26th
Category Ottawa Enemy - Carolina
Player Value Player Value
Points Jason Spezza 37 Jeff Skinner 24
Goals Milan Michalek 19 Jeff Skinner 12
Assists Erik Karlsson 29 Jussi Jokinen 16
PP Points Erik Karlsson 14 Jussi Jokinen 9
Shots Erik Karlsson 114 Eric Staal 123
Hits Nick Foligno 94 Patrick Dwyer 74
Avg. Ice time Erik Karlsson 25:22 Joni Pitkanen 22:35
Face-offs % Zenon Konopka 59.6 Jussi Jokinen 53.4
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