Well, the Ottawa Senators' hot start appears to have come to a screeching halt, but it's not because the other teams are starting to catch up with their conditioning level. Instead, back surgery for their top center and the relentlessness pace of the schedule combined with a flu bug tearing through the locker room has forced head coach Paul MacLean to throw some interesting player combinations on to the ice so far. He said there was no point in having depth if you didn't use it, but that mantra is being seriously tested as the dominoes have fallen for this team. The players are already looking tired, and we're only nine games into the season. The sky is not falling, but player management is suddenly a concern for this team.
Biggest gains: Mika Zibanejad
What a rapid turnaround for Mikachu. One minute he's an afterthought in Binghamton behind golden boy Jakob Silfverberg, and battling an array of injuries, and the next minute, he's called up and taking full advantage of the opportunity, recording an assist in his first game this season and a power play goal in his second.
He's still just 19 years old, so there's a dip in performance coming. Consistency is the challenge with all young players. But right now, he's playing with confidence, and it's something the team desperately needs.
Biggest losses: Peter Regin
Regin, of course, was outstanding in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins a while back. Last year, after failed auditions by Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa, It was Regin who held down the second-line center position. It wasn't until Regin was lost for the season that general manager Bryan Murray felt the need to trade for Kyle Turris--so it wasn't a total surprise that it was Regin got a chance on the top line when Spezza went down, or that Regin got the opportunity to anchor the second line when Turris was moved up.
Unfortunately, he has failed at both spots. On the fourth line, his wingers, Jim O'brien and Erik Condra routinely found space to attack with speed--but against better competition, the same thing has not happened. The speed of the second line has ground to a halt, and it's hurting the team as a whole. If this was Regin's last chance to show his worth to the team--they stuck with him through two season-ending shoulder injuries--he only has himself to blame for their apparent desire to turn to Da Costa instead.
|Craig Anderson||Named the league's first star of the month. Still hasn't let in a goal after the first period. The team is wasting his performance every game they don't win.|
|Ben Bishop||When Alex Auld got bombed for four goals on ten shots last season, he didn't get another start for 11 games. Bishop has already been passed over in two games where he might have gotten a start.|
|Andre Benoit||If he's robbed of his only chance at an NHL goal because of this, it would be a shame.|
|Mark Borowiecki||Steady, but got scratched for Benoit, and only drew back in when Gonchar couldn't play thanks to the flu. Not surprising, considering MacLean is probably looking for offense.|
|Sergei Gonchar||MacLean continues to lean on him. That's about as strong as an endorsement as you can get.|
|Erik Karlsson||His wizardry with the puck isn't necessarily translating into points, but he's still been a dominant player. The question now is, "How long can the team afford to play him for over 30 minutes a night before he wears down?"|
|Mike Lundin||It's too bad he doesn't play center--there's a better opportunity for him there at the moment.|
|Marc Methot||He's slowed down a little since his great start--he didn't have a great game against the Carolina Hurricanes.|
|Chris Phillips||More goals than Alfie at the moment.|
|Patrick Wiercioch||Picked up where he left off with two assists in three games, including a great long pass to Silfverberg for a rare power play breakaway goal.|
|Daniel Alfredsson||He's rounding into form. Denied a goal and then got it right back on his next shot. Played a strong game in the loss to Montreal.|
|Erik Condra||The fourth line isn't getting the same chances they were before.|
|Kaspars Daugavins||Just a lunchpail kind of guy. Comes in and does his job.|
|Colin Greening||Logged two assists in a 5-1 in Montreal, and then promptly disappeared.|
|Guillaume Latendresse||Scratched with "the flu." He's not ingratiating himself to the fans very well.|
|Milan Michalek||Scored a goal off of a nice little Turris move on a faceoff, but Michalek looks lost without someone to help him generate scoring chances.|
|Chris Neil||He's leaving his heart on the ice every night, but intensity only gets you so far.|
|Jim O`Brien||He had a little two-game scoring streak going there, but that's disappeared.|
|Peter Regin||See "Biggest losses."|
|Jakob Silfverberg||Seemed invisible for a while, but looks to be getting back on track.|
|Zack Smith||Two assists and a fight against Montreal, and then nothing. At least he's still bringing it on faceoffs--he didn't go below. 500 all week.|
|Jason Spezza||Back surgery. Crap.|
|Kyle Turris||Since Spezza went down, Turris has three assists in four games. He's doing his best in a more challenging role.|
||See "Biggest gains."