Ben Bishop returns to the net as the Senators return to action against Buffalo this afternoon. This is some Inception-level coaching by Paul MacLean here. Since the Senators have already played 10 one-goal games in a row (they're two away from a franchise record that was almost certainly set in the early Jacques Martin days) and these two teams have played approximately 3,425 one-goal games in the past 13 years, this one is automatically going to a shootout--and Bishop owns shootouts while Lehner is still practicing them. The NHL could simply ask the teams to submit their six players who earned a point on each team's two goals (Say, OTT - Condra, Gonchar, Neil, OTT - Zibanejad, Alfredsson, Z. Smith) and then skip right to the shootout, and the result would be the same. This game could be over in about five minutes. Efficiency. Get on it.
Since that's not going to happen, here are today's lines from Sylvain St-Laurent:
Lehner (just a man and his will to survive)
- Matt Kassian draws in for the first time. Hope he doesn't fight anyone out of some sense of obligation--word is Sabres "enforcer" John Scott will not play. Kassian doesn't have to prove himself to anyone. He just has to play a hard, physical game. The Sabres are far below the Senators in the standings, but that doesn't make the game less important to the Senators, who sit just four points above the ninth-place New York Rangers. The Rangers have a game in hand on the Senators. There's no need to put the team in a penalty-killing situation today if it can be avoided.
- Per Bruce Garrioch, Peter Regin will replace Kaspars Daugavins in the lineup. Between Kassian and Regin, the penalty killing unit just got weaker.
- Sergei Gonchar has six assists in his last five games, and now leads the team with 12. He's been fantastic lately and it's no surprise he's on the top pairing.
- Chris Phillips has also been strong, with four assists in his last five games. Outside of Methot, he's probably the best choice to help protect Eric Gryba. Methot's not the ideal choice because he plays against top lines. A second pairing gets Gryba better matchups and should help cut down his mistakes, and Phillips has the veteran presence to help out. Gryba should have a good game today.
- Patrick Wiercioch has three goals in his last five games, so of course he's on the third pair. Sarcasm aside, this still makes sense. He's a rookie. Protect him and let him get extra time on the PP, where he's clearly making a difference.
- Daniel Alfredsson, Mika Zibanejad, and Erik Karlsson are all tied for the team lead with 6 goals.
- Jakob Silfverberg leads the team in shots with 71. Erik Karlsson is second with 63. Turris can pass Karlsson today with two shots. Alfredsson can pass him with three.
- Sergei Gonchar can pass Karlsson in shots today with 13. That's realistic, right?
- The Sabres are 1-2-2 in their last five. They're not a team headed in the right direction.
- To wit: The team just sent Mikhail Grigorenko back to juniors--after burning up a year of his ELC.
- Mark Stone was sent back to Binghamton to make room for Kassian. Stone was minus-1 with just three shots on goal in four games.
- The Coyotes just signed Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a six-year, $33M deal, giving him a cap hit of $5.5M a season. That's a fantastic deal for the Coyotes, who also have David Rundblad and Brandon Gormley as top defensive prospects. Goalies Mike Smith and Jason Labarbera are unrestricted free agents at the end of this year. Use Bishop to get Yandle on this team. I really don't care how.