Game 40: New Jersey Devils @ Ottawa Senators

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Happy new year! Bonne année et bonne santé! Szczęśliwego nowego roku!

The Ottawa Senators will play their first game of 2012 when they host the New Jersey Devils. The Senators happened to play exactly 82 games in 2011 and went 35-37-10 for 80 points. However, since the Brian Elliott trade, the Senators have gone 33-24-6 for 72 points in 63 games or a 94 point pace.

Tonight's game will decide the all important sixth seed. New Jersey, Winnipeg and Ottawa are all tied on 43 points, but Ottawa has played two more games than New Jersey and one more than Winnipeg. The last time the Senators played the Devils, Ottawa blew a 3-0 lead, ended up tying the game on a shorthanded goal with seconds to go, before losing in a shootout.

Sergei Gonchar will return to the is still out of the lineup after being taken out by Kyle Turris Chris Neil. Matt Carkner will be the healthy scratch despite scoring in the last game. Here are the lines from Nicolas St-Pierre.

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

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen -Chris Phillips
Matt Carkner - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson (starter)
Alex Auld

More after the jump.

Here are things to look out for tonight:

  • Power play: The power play has been awful lately and that was even with Sergei Gonchar. Without him in Buffalo, it looked even less dangerous. Can Gonchar's return spark the power play? Can Gonchar avoid Chris Neil?
  • Continue to dominate: The Senators have dominated their opponents for large parts of the last two games, outshooting the opposition by a 95-60 count. Including shots missed and shots that were blocked, Ottawa attempted 170 shots on net and allowed only 96. That's complete domination in terms of possession. However, they didn't lead in any of those two games but managed to win anyway.
  • Defensive minutes: Jared Cowen's play has dropped recently and despite Sergei Gonchar not playing, Cowen played "only" 19:51 in Buffalo. Filip Kuba was incredibly over 33 minutes, and Erik Karlsson was also over 30 minutes. With Gonchar back, will the defensive minutes be distributed a little more evenly?
  • Avoid the shootout: The Devils have 8 of their 21 wins in the shootout. The Senators are 4-2 themselves, but you have to like New Jersey's chances in that.
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