Game Preview: Florida Panthers @ Ottawa Senators

Joel Auerbach

A preview of the Ottawa Senators home opener against the Florida Panthers tonight.

Note: We will be trying a new format tonight. The game preview will be going up in the afternoon, with the open thread 30 minutes before puck drop. For tonight, this means the GDT will be at 7:00 p.m.

It took a while, but the Ottawa Senators will play their home opener against Alex Kovalev, Filip Kuba and the Florida Panthers. Florida is coming off a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in which Kovalev handily won the battle of the enigmas with Alexander Semin. Kovalev and Jonathan Huberdeau each had a goal and two assists while Jose Theodore stopped 41 of 42 shots.

The Senators meanwhile started slow, falling behind 1-0 and were lucky to not fall further behind thanks to a couple of shots hitting the goal posts. Eventually they got back into the game, and dominated the third period on their way to a 4-1 win. Erik Karlsson, like Kovalev and Huberdeau, had a goal and two assists, with the last assist being rather questionable.

Ottawa isn't expected to make any changes, and they were unchanged in practice from Saturday. The lines and pairings, per Sylvain St-Laurent, are:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Jakob Silfverberg
Guillaume Latendresse - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Peter Regin - Jim O'Brien - Erik Condra

Marc Méthot - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Patrick Wiercioch - André Benoit

Craig Anderson (starter)
Robin Lehner

Scatches - Kaspars Daugavins, Mark Borowiekci, Ben Bishop

According to Litter Box Cats, the Panthers will have:

Fleischmann-Weiss-Santorelli
Kovalev-Mueller-Huberdeau
Upshall-Matthias-Kopecky
Skille-Smithson-Parros

Campbell-Weaver
Kuba-Kulikov
Ellerby-Jovanovski

Theodore (starter)
Clemmensen

Here are some thoughts for tonight:

  • Defending Panthers second line: Kovalev and Huberdeau each had three points against the Hurricanes and tonight it will likely be up to Phillips and Gonchar to defend against them. This has the potential to be a matchup problem for Ottawa.
  • Jason Spezza and the top line: Milan Michalek scored a goal but I can't remember too many dangerous chances created by Ottawa's top line. With Ottawa at home, Paul MacLean will be able to put Spezza's line out against the opposition he wants. Jakob Silfverberg didn't make any mistakes, but he wasn't a difference maker either. He started the same way in the AHL, so hopefully he starts to put up the points in the NHL as well.
  • Zone starts: It is interesting to note that Paul MacLean used Kyle Turris for 12 offensive zone face-offs while Jason Spezza was only used on 5. These numbers include 5 on 5, as well as power play and penalty kill. On the subject of face-offs, Ottawa's centres won only 24 out of 57 face-offs. Alfredsson and Silfverberg also took six face-offs, winning four of them.
  • Karlsson and Methot: While Methot did decently, I would like to see more from him on the top pairing than to simply get the puck out of the defensive zone. It was only one game, but hopefully Methot can improve after a few games. Karlsson, also was not great for the early parts of the game, before a strong third period.
  • Opening ceremony: I don't know about the rest of you, but it always give me the chills to hear the players' hometowns and numbers announced at the home opener. Hopefully there is no stupidity with our players getting booed. Also, will Stuntman Stu say, these are "your 2012-2013 Ottawa Senators" or "2013 Ottawa Senators"?
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