Game 31 Preview: Philadelphia Flyers @ Ottawa Senators

Mika Zibanejad has a secret plan to get off the fourth line. - Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

You wanna get nuts? Come on, let's get nuts.

Okay, 30 games are in the books, Paul MacLean. Who are we?

"Right now, we’re an inconsistent team that has a lot of potential for growth, a lot of opportunity to be better, but we’re not going to get better unless we come here and make a commitment to work every day to get better."

Shit.

With just 52 games left in the season, the Senators might have a lot of potential for growth, but they don't have a lot of opportunity to turn things around left. They need to start beating the teams they should beat, as well as some of the teams they shouldn't.

Tonight's opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, used to be one of the former, but since they currently stand one point ahead of the Senators and have beaten them in two previous matchups, they're now decidedly the latter. In addition, the Flyers are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, so the opportunity to kick a team when they're down has long passed for Ottawa.

However, things aren't out of reach for the Senators. Despite going 2-3-1 in their last six games, they've averaged 40.2 shots per game during that span while allowing only 28 shots per game. That kind of disparity will eventually turn into wins. The only question is whether it will before it's too late.

Here are the expected lines for tonight:

Michalek-Turris-Ryan
MacArthur-Spezza-Condra
Greening-Z. Smith-Neil
Kassian-Zibanejad-Conacher

Methot-Karlsson
Phillips-Corvo
Cowen-Weircioch

Anderson (starter)
Lehner (just a man and his will to survive)

For Philadelphia:

Hartnell-Giroux-Voracek
Raffi-Schenn-Simmonds
Read-Couturier-Downie
Rosehill-Hall-Rinaldo

Timonen-Coburn
Grossmann-Streit
Meszaros-Schenn

Mason (starter)
Emery

Some notes:

  • Vincent Lecavalier is out 3-4 weeks with a broken back. He has three points in two games against Ottawa this season. Forward Tye McGinn has been recalled to replace him, but there's no word if he'll play tonight.
  • Kimmo Timonen left in the second period of the Flyers' last game, a 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. He is listed as day-to-day and has been tight-lipped about the injury. He may not play tonight. He also has three points in two games against Ottawa this season.
  • Ray Emery missed the morning skate because of a "passport issue." No idea if he'll be available for this game.
  • That means Steve Mason gets the start tonight. Mason was bombed for 4 goals on 13 shots in the second period against Dallas before Emery finished out the third period. Mason has allowed 2 goals on 58 shots in two games against Ottawa this year.
  • Craig Anderson starts for Ottawa. MacLean can say "He's our #1 goaltender" or "goatlender" or whatever, but designations don't really matter at this point. The Senators need wins from both goalies going forward if they're going to make the playoffs. They need Anderson playing well if they're going to have a shot. That's just the way it is.
  • The team's defensive pairings were stable last game, so no changes there. Cowen-Wiercioch remains a lynchpin for the team. It would be great to see them build on the confidence they showed against Toronto.
  • Mike Hoffman gets scratched tonight. Hoffman got an audition with the big boys in Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan and had zero points to show for it. So... it's understandable why he'd get scratched.
  • But he's getting scratched for Matt Kassian. Kassian played all of 1:03 against Toronto, so I'm not sure why he's in the lineup, but it looks like the Flyers will be dressing Jay Rosehill, so I guess there will be a fight tonight.
  • Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher draw the Kassian straw tonight. Zibanejad has been good in the offensive zone and less-good in the defensive zone. There are no good linemates for Kassian, but as long as Zibanejad and Conacher still get regular shifts, a fourth-line matchup could be a strength for Ottawa, even if we don't agree with the talent placed on the line.
  • A win tonight would put Ottawa ahead of the Flyers, leaving only three teams to leapfrog for the final playoff spot.
  • A win tonight would put Ottawa only one point back of the 10th place New Jersey Devils and two points back of the 9th place New York Rangers.
  • A win tonight would put Ottawa only six points back of the 8th place Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • A win tonight would make me very happy.
  • A win tonight is kind of important for the team's playoff hopes.
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