Game 38 preview: Ottawa Senators @ Florida Panthers

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

A preview of the game between the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers on 7 April 2013.

In the first week of the season, the Ottawa Senators beat the Florida Panthers twice, outscoring them 7-1 and outshooting them 74-57. This was the team that played the last game against them:

Michalek - Spezza - Silfverberg
Latendresse - Turris - Alfredsson
Greening - Smith - Neil
O'Brien - Regin - Condra

Methot - Karlsson
Phillips - Gonchar
Wiercioch - Benoit

And according to Sylvain St-Laurent, this is the team for tonight:

Latendresse - Turris - Alfredsson
Conacher - Zibanejad - Silfverberg
Greening - Smith - Neil
Kassian - Regin - Condra

Wiercioch - Gonchar
Methot - Gryba
Phillips - Benoit

Anderson (starter)
Lehner

Here is the summary: the second line is now the first line. The second line is three rookies (one of them previously on the first line). The third line is still the third line and the fourth line has replaced Jim O'Brien with occasional hockey player Matt Kassian.

On defence, we have lost the best hockey player in the world, and replaced him with Eric Gryba. This has caused every single defensive pairing to do something more than originally expected.

Here are some other talking points for tonight:

  • The Senators are coming into the game on a three game losing streak. Still they are playing a Panthers team that is 29th in the NHL. They fell behind 4-0 to the Capitals last night before losing 4-3.
  • This game isn't exactly a must-win though. Even if they lose, Ottawa will be four points ahead of Winnipeg and with two games in hand. They will also be five points ahead of 10th place New Jersey. A win is always nice though. Although a New Jersey win later in the night could close the gap to three points with a game in hand for Ottawa.
  • Craig Anderson will make his first start in 45 days tonight. He comes into the game with a leading 95.2 save percentage. Thanks to strong goaltending, the club has been able to be patient with Anderson. How will he look tonight?
  • Jonathan Huberdeau is currently two points ahead of Cory Conacher for the rookie scoring lead.
  • Jakob Silfverberg has 24 more shots than anyone else on the club.
  • Zack Smith has the third most even strength ice time on the club among the forwards, behind only Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson.
Here are some stats for the players playing tonight:

NAME GP 5-on-5 TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative Off Zone Start %
Methot 36 18.29 1.093 -3.4 51.7
Gryba 23 17.97 1.434 -19.8 48.6
Gonchar 34 17.24 0.084 -2.2 53.2
Phillips 37 15.96 0.155 -5.2 51.6
Benoit 29 13.8 -0.954 7.3 55.1
Wiercioch 33 12.88 -0.942 12.3 59.7

So while I have been harsh on Gryba, it needs to be said that he has faced the toughest competition on the club. He has been overwhelmed and performed poorly against this competition, but that's all we know so far. That he isn't ready to be in the NHL as a top four defender. Patrick Wiercioch has been used in the opposite manner, playing in offensive situations against weak competition.

NAME GP 5-on-5 TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative Off Zone Start %
Turris 37 14.86 0.575 -3.6 52
Alfredsson 36 14.16 0.054 3.1 53.8
Smith 37 13.92 0.909 -4.4 48.9
Silfverberg 37 13.34 0.432 2.2 59.7
Latendresse 18 13.19 0.747 -5.7 54
Greening 36 12.82 0.33 -3.4 53.9
Neil 37 12.48 0.808 0.7 48.3
Conacher 36 11.98 0.224 1.5 55.2
Zibanejad 31 11.14 -0.281 8.7 63.7
Condra 37 10.98 -0.384 9.7 53.6
Regin 25 9.27 -0.327 2.2 50.4
Kassian 10 5.7 -1.733 8.9 56.8

The coaching with Mika Zibanejad has been exceptional I have to say. Paul MacLean has put the Senators 2011 first round pick in situations to succeed and it is paying off. Zibanejad doesn't see a lot of time on the ice, and he plays in very offensive situations against slightly easy competition. This appears to be working and Zibanejad has 18 points in 31 games, which is a 48-points pace over 82 games. Not bad for a 19-year old is it?

Chris Neil has been placed in mainly defensive situations and while he was handling that very well earlier in the season, his play has dropped off a little bit. Still overall, a 0.7 Corsi Relative against Corsi Rel QoC of 0.8 is pretty solid.
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