The Ottawa Senators will attempt to win their third straight game when they host the Montréal Canadiens tonight. After a rough first half of the season where the Senators went two months without winning consecutive games, Ottawa has pulled itself into the playoff race after going 6-0-1 in the last seven. The Habs have not played well for most of the season but have managed to stay above the playoff fight thanks to the play of Carey Price. Still, a win tonight would pull Ottawa to within five points of third place Montréal in the Atlantic division. Ottawa is also three points behind Toronto with two games in hand and one point behind the Rangers with a game in hand. The Red Wings are level on points with Ottawa but Detroit has a game in hand.
As expected, Eric Gryba will return to play against the Canadiens while Patrick Wiercioch will sit. Meh to that. Senators legend Chris Neil will make his triumphant return to the lineup. Craig Anderson will start.
Here are the lines from Nicolas St-Pierre.
MacArthur - Turris - Ryan
Greening - Spezza - Stone
Conacher - Zibanejad - Michalek
Condra - Smith - Neil
Cowen - Karlsson
Methot - Gryba
Phillips - Ceci
Some notes for tonight:
- No surprise that Eric Gryba returns against Montréal but still a disappointing decision to sit Patrick Wiercioch in my eyes. If you compare Wiercioch to Cody Ceci, by most metrics Wiercioch is either better or equal to Ceci. What will likely surprise people is that Ceci has been just as sheltered as Wiercioch, but alas he is a right handed shot. It is interesting to note the perception people have of Ceci versus Wiercioch.
- The Senators have four players on pace for 60 or more points in Erik Karlsson (75), Bobby Ryan (65), Kyle Turris (63) and Clarke MacArthur (60).
- Karlsson leads all NHL defencemen in points per game and is one point behind Duncan Keith in two fewer games.
- The Senators were trailing the Capitals 1-0 when Chris Neil injured himself. Ottawa came back to win that game and went 4-0-1 in the five games following that. Can Neil reintegrate himself back into the lineup? Can Paul MacLean resist the urge to put him on the power play if it doesn't score on the first three attempts?
- Ottawa has the highest power play conversion rate on the road (26.9%) but only 27th (12.2%) at home. Is this random noise or do our fans tend to yell shoooooooooooot more than others?
- I don't like having Chris Neil on my favourite hockey team.
- Ottawa will look to improve on its 8-15-1 record without Matt Kassian.
- I have felt that Karlsson hasn't created as much offensively recently but he does have nine points in his last nine games. So there is that.
- The Senators next seven games are against the Canadiens, Rangers, Capitals, Lightning, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Lightning and Maple Leafs. Lot of ground to be gained or lost here.
- Clarke MacArthur has five goals in his last six games. That's pretty good. On 10 shots. That's not as encouraging. He is only two goals behind Bobby Ryan for the team lead though.
- Ryan for his part has no goal and one assist in five games since being left off the American Olympic team. He does have 16 shots though.
Here are some stats leaders for the two teams tonight.
|Goals||Bobby Ryan||18||Max Pacioretty||20|
|Assists||Erik Karlsson||33||P.K. Subban||26|
|Points||Erik Karlsson||43||P.K. Subban||33|
|Shots||Erik Karlsson||142||Max Pacioretty||146|
|Average Ice time||Erik Karlsson||27:17||Andrei Markov||25:25|
|Corsi Close %||50.9%||12th||47.5%||26th|
|Fenwick Close %||49.8%||15th||48.8%||21st|