It is 3 December and the Ottawa Senators are sitting in a playoff spot, while tonight's opponents the Washington Capitals, are not. Being perfectly honest, there is almost no chance that the Senators finish ahead of the Captials at the end of the season--Washington is too talented. But one never knows--just look at the Philadelphia Eagles. The Capitals have, however, lost four in a row, though they snapped an eight-game losing streak last December by beating Ottawa. This has been a bit of a theme for contenders lately, with the Boston Bruins sitting at 3-7-0 before they faced Ottawa, and they have gone 12-0-1 since. The Vancouver Canucks have also gone 5-1-1 including their game with Ottawa after starting 9-9-0.
Notorious Sens killer Alexander Semin will not play tonight for Washington due to a shoulder injury. For the Senators, Chris Neil will return though Paul MacLean hasn't yet decided who will be scratched. Filip Kuba will miss his second straight game. Here are the lines that the Ottawa Sun projects:
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Nikita Filatov
Milan Michalek - Nick Foligno - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil
Chris Phillips - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
David Rundblad - Brian Lee
Craig Anderson (starter)
Talking points and statistics after the jump.
Here are my talking points for tonight:
- Chris Neil returns: Neil was having a good season before he got injured, putting up seven points in 16 games. His tendency to take stupid penalties was still taking some of the lustre off his performances, but he'll still be a good addition. He practised on the fourth line with Konopka and Winchester, so he might not get too many minutes in his first game back.
- Bouncing back: When the Senators lose a game to end a winning streak, they tend to lose the next one too. They are 0-3-0 so far in games following the loss that ended a winning streak. That's just a long way of saying all their losing streaks have been at least two games long. Ottawa is 4-7-1 overall in games following a loss.
- Senators among league leaders: Erik Karlsson continues to lead all defencemen in assists and is tied for the lead among all players in assists. Milan Michalek is only one goal away from the NHL goal lead. A big night could have a Senators player leading the NHL in goals and assists.
- Karlsson/Phillips against Ovechkin: Though he isn't showing it so far this season, Alex Ovechkin still has the tools to be the best hockey player in the world. It is going to be an adventure for Erik Karlsson and Chris Phillips to play against him. Karlsson helped keep Ovechkin pointless in their last meeting, but Ovechkin did get seven shots on goal. Ovechkin has 17 goals in 24 career games against Ottawa and tonight will be his 500th career game.
- Filatov's lack of scoring: Though he's only played two full games since he returned, Nikita Filatov has yet to get a point. He can't say he hasn't been given a chance, as he's played on the top line and received plenty of power play time. His overall play has been pretty good, including being part of a 2-on-1 with Jason Spezza in each game as well as creating other chances. While I would like to see him get 10-15 games, there is no guarantee he will be with the club after the road trip ends tonight, so hopefully he can finally score one.