For the sixth time in eight games, the Ottawa Senators will play a southeast division club as they visit the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. A Canadian team playing southern teams in late January and early February? It's almost like the NHL didn't have to modify the original schedule too much and had a target date in mind to end the lockout when they made the schedule right?
Strange starting schedule aside, the Senators will go for their third straight win. Ottawa's went 3-1-1 in a stretch of five games in seven days. The Senators will play every other day until next Saturday, but there will no back-to-back games in that time frame.
According to Ian Mendes, Guillaume Latendresse will be a scratch in favour of Kaspars Daugavins. Sergei Gonchar should also return but Patrick Wiercioch will keep his place. Mark Borowiecki will be the healthy scratch. Here are the lines:
Here are some points to discuss for tonight:
- Response to Jason Spezza injury: While Spezza has missed the last two games, this will be the first game that the club plays since they announced the extent of the injury. Is Karlsson capable of stepping up even more? And speaking of stepping up...
- Turris line usage: So far, Paul MacLean has been using the Turris line against the opposition's top line. He will be on the main scoring line now, so will MacLean change? I don't know if the Smith line is defensively responsible enough to play against an opposition's top line. The 22-93-18 line was very good, but again are they capable of playing against a first line? This is the obvious problem with the Spezza injury, everyone's going to have to do more than usual.
- Anderson plays again: What can you say about the guy? He's been incredible. A fun little stat: Anderson has yet to allow a goal in a game this season after Ottawa has scored their first goal. Carolina leads the NHL with 38 shots a game. Ottawa is second with 33.3 per game. It should be a fun game.
- Gonchar returns: Thankfully Sergei Gonchar is expected to return tonight. Carolina has two dangerous lines: E. Staal with Semin and J. Staal with Skinner. This will be a matchup problem for Ottawa, but would have been even worse without Gonchar.
- #DanEllisProblems: So yeah he's playing. I figured I'll throw the tag out there.
My very scientific win probability: 50%. The Senators will be playing without Spezza, and although they will get Dan Ellis in net, Carolina's top two lines have the potential to cause a lot of headaches for Ottawa.
Here are the numbers:
||Corsi Rel QoC
||Off Zone Start %
Karlsson's offensive zone % is coming down a bit. What's surprising is how little Wiercioch has been shielded (45% offensive zone start) compared to Borowiecki (62%) given that Borowiecki is generally considered the safer player. Although, the sample size is very small at this point.
||Corsi Rel QoC
||Off Zone Start %
You can see the point about Turris facing the toughest competition here. The possession numbers are going to have to improve, and it won't get easier with him being the #1 centre now.
Peter was once again back at it, participating in a Q & A with Brian LeBlanc from the Carolina Hurricanes blog Canes Country
Peter: A lot of pundits picked the Hurricanes as a potential playoff team thanks to their off-season acquisitions, but things don't seem to be going according to plan. What's the matter down there?
Brian: Put simply, the goaltending has been average at best, and what most here pegged as a potential Achilles' heel - a patchwork defense that honestly scares no one - has indeed sabotaged the early season. Cam Ward, traditionally a slow starter, has lived up to that reputation in his first four games, although he has shown some signs of heating up in his last two games. Dan Ellis has played well in limited action, but this team is committed to Ward and when he struggles the team does as well. The defense, meanwhile, has been an adventure every night, and with Justin Faulk on the shelf with an upper body injury the Canes are without the one defenseman who's played above expectations. The Canes look like a team that's bound to win games by outscoring opponents and getting timely defense and goaltending. So far, it's been hit-or-miss, just like their first five games.
Peter: How has Jordan Staal looked like in the lineup with his brother? And how has Alex Semin performed so far? Are they both as anticipated, or have they left fans wanting?
Brian: They're filling very different roles, but both players have given the Canes what they expected. The only knock on Staal so far is that he can't buy a goal, but he's exactly what the Canes were expecting: a slight defensive upgrade and significant offensive upgrade over Brandon Sutter, who the Canes traded to Pittsburgh as part of the package to acquire Staal. Semin has been quite interesting to watch. The Canes have never had a scoring winger with his skills, and it seems like he's thinking the game at a faster level than the rest of the team is used to, resulting in things like drop passes to no one and whiffs on one-timers. Eric Staal, who has been centering Semin all year, looks like he's catching up to Semin, and it's paying off with his first point-per-game opening month of the season since October of 2007. The Canes took a leap of faith opening the wallet for Semin, and so far it's been successful.
Peter: You guys drafted an Erik Karlsson of your own this off-season, I see. What are you expecting of the younger EK?
Brian: Well, it's not every day that you can draft the reigning Norris Trophy winner in the fourth round of the dr....oh, wait. The younger Karlsson, an undersized forward who plays what can be described as a pesky game despite his size (which, again, is really wiry...6'0", 165 lbs), is not likely to come over to North America until at least this summer and maybe not even until 2014. Seeing as how the Canes' depth on the wing leaves a bit to be desired, there's a decent chance that Karlsson will have a spot waiting for him somewhere in the system whenever he comes over, but he's going to really need to focus on building up muscle if he's going to have any hope of making it to the NHL and not getting knocked off the puck by a stiff breeze.