Although the Ottawa Senators played just two games this week, they still managed to do pretty well for themselves by earning three of a possible four points against Western Conference opponents (albeit some of the weaker ones there are). That, in combination with some continuing struggles from the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, has the Sens as close to a playoff spot as they've been in a long time: Just two points back of the Philadelphia Flyers and aforementioned Wings for the available wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. With 13 games left before the Olympic break, all but two of which are critical intra-conference matches, Ottawa's next month of hockey will go a long way in determining whether or not they'll get into the post-season this year.
Biggest gains: Mark Stone
Got his first NHL (regular season) assist against the Avalanche, and his on-ice vision really shined. He also played some great defence, getting back hard regularly and supporting his defencemen deep in Ottawa's zone. It might be tough to find a place for him on a healthy lineup, but Stone is making the best case he can for himself by playing strong, responsible hockey.
Biggest losses: Milan Michalek
No points, not even any shots in two games... not acceptable, especially given what he did last week to demonstrate he can still make things happen. Michalek is supposed to be a veteran and a leader on this squad, and he needs to step up and get to it with consistency.
|Craig Anderson||Although his play in Colorado was a disappointment (likely to himself as much as anyone else), Anderson still managed to stop 59 of 64 shots in the week and solidified his place as the team's starter--much to Robin Lehner's dismay.|
|Robin Lehner||Didn't get a start last week and hasn't played since Dec. 27, and he might not get a start this week, either. He'll get his chance eventually, but for now it looks like Anderson's got the job in hand.|
|Cody Ceci||Ceci has obviously earned the trust of the head coach and unless he unexpectedly falters, he's not going anywhere--much to Patrick Wiercioch's dismay.|
|Joe Corvo||Was scratched against the Avalanche but got into the lineup against Nashville, where he played the fewest minutes among blueliners. He hasn't been bad this season, but continues to find himself out of the lineup semi-regularly since others are playing better.|
|Jared Cowen||Is still playing with Erik Karlsson, who covers up for most of the shortcomings in Cowen's game. I fear it might also be hindering Karlsson's ability to produce offence, but I'll have to keep an eye on that in the next few games.|
|Eric Gryba||Played against the Avalanche with Marc Methot on the second pairing, yet still found himself scratched against the Predators. He can't seem to stick in the lineup.|
|Erik Karlsson||Led the Senators in ice time both games (naturally) and had two assists against the Avalanche. Pretty standard week from the team's best player.|
|Marc Methot||Steady Marc Methot is steady.|
|Chris Phillips||Played less than 14 minutes against the Avalanche and then more than 19 minutes against the Predators. Wasn't really noticeable in either game.|
|Patrick Wiercioch||Was the only defenceman who didn't play at all last week; he wasn't even given a chance to play in Denver even though it would have been a special one for him. That's probably not a good sign.|
|Cory Conacher||He managed one assist in the week (the product of a hard forecheck), and still looks like a good fit on his line despite the fact that they weren't quite as dominant this season.|
|Erik Condra||He's leaned on heavily as a penalty-killer and defensive specialist, but he had just one shot on net despite playing more than 25 minutes and didn't have much of a presence in the offensive zone.|
|Colin Greening||Although he's not used heavily, Greening was a presence last week, managing four shots and dropping the gloves once. Although the relevance of fighting is certainly debatable, the fact that Greening is willing to do works in his favour.|
|Matt Kassian||Played a season-high 9:08 against the Avalanche and wasn't a tremendous liability--but was scratched against the Predators in favour of Jean-Gabriel Pageau. It's hard to imagine Kassian getting many games when Neil returns to the lineup.|
|Clarke MacArthur||Steady Clarke MacArthur had a goal and an assist against Colorado and now has five points in his last five games.|
|Milan Michalek||See "Biggest Losses."|
|Chris Neil||Will likely return to the lineup this week.|
|Jean-Gabriel Pageau||Got back into the lineup against Nashville and put up a row of goose-eggs in the stats line. As soon as Neil is ready to return, Pageau will likely head back to Binghamton--perhaps sooner.|
|Bobby Ryan||Although he had just one assist, he six shots on net--including five against the Preds. He's cooled off significantly since mid-December and has just five points (2G, 3A) in his last ten games, for whatever reason, and the Senators will need his production to pick up. Soon.|
|Z. Smith||Steadiness from the ever-reliable Z. Smith, although one shot on net in two games means he needs to step up his game.|
|Jason Spezza||Returned from his injury with a vengeance, scoring a goal against Colorado and potting the shootout winner against the Predators. Hopefully he can maintain his relatively good health until the Olympic break, which will offer a very useful rest for him.|
|Mark Stone||See "Biggest Gains."|
|Kyle Turris||Two goals in two games? I'll take it.|
|Mika Zibanejad||It was a minor step back for Zibanejad as his line lost some potency, but he scored a beauty in the shootout so I'll forgive him.|
Special thanks to our friend winterion at Japers' Rink for our icons!