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Game 34 Preview: Ottawa Senators @ Washington Capitals

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A preview of the December 22nd game between the Ottawa Senators and the Washington Capitals.

Since he can't reach the puck, MacArthur attempts to put himself into the net.
Since he can't reach the puck, MacArthur attempts to put himself into the net.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Senators meet the Capitals in the American nation's capital. The Sens are coming off a weird weekend, in which they thumped the league-leading Anaheim Ducks 6-2 and then lost to the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. The Sens are 3-2-1 since Dave Cameron took over the coaching duties. Patrick Wiercioch draws back in for Chris Phillips, and Craig Anderson will start again instead of Robin Lehner.

Below are the lines and pairings, compiled from various sources on Sens Twitter:

MacArthur - Turris - Stone
Hoffman - Zibanejad - Ryan
Michalek - Pageau - Chiasson
Greening - Legwand - Condra

Borowiecki - Karlsson
Cowen - Ceci
Wiercioch - Gryba

Anderson (starter)
Lehner

Here are the projected lines for the Washington Capitals, courtesy of Mike Vogel:

Ovechkin - Backstrom - Wilson
Johansson - Kuznetsov - Brouwer
Laich - Fehr - Ward
Chimera - Latta - Beagle

Orpik - Carlson
Alzner - Niskanen
Hillen - Green

Holtby (starter)
Peters

Forwards Andre Burakovsky and Aaron Volpatti were recalled from the AHL's Hershey Bears, but neither are expected to play tonight. Washington plays another game tomorrow against the Rangers before their Christmas break.

Some notes for tonight:

  • Patrick Wiercioch draws back in for Chris Phillips. This came as a surprise to most, as Phillips practised as Karlsson's partner during warmups, and Wiercioch stuck around for a bag skate.
  • Cameron seems to have created this weird duality of Wiercioch/Phillips. If Phillips' seniority gets him into a certain percentage of games, I'd like to see some of the other defencemen also get scratched every once in a while. This has gotta be hurting both Wiercioch's development and his trade value.
  • Craig Anderson has stopped 66 of his last 68 shots (0.971 save percentage)
  • Andy is now sixth in the league in save percentage, and third if you only include goalies who have played in at least 15 games.
  • Interesting start for Jean-Gabriel Pageau so far. He only played 10:30 against the Devils, but was up to 16:16 against Montréal. He is slightly below team average Corsi at 43.33% at even strength, but his offensive zone start percentage is the lowest on the team at 25%. Combined with his time on the PK, it looks like he's being used as a defensive specialist.
  • Kyle Turris was held pointless on Saturday, after a four-game point streak that saw him put up six points in that span
  • Mike Hoffman not only leads the team in goals, but also in goals-per-60, points-per-60, and individual shots-per-60 (all even strength). Remember when he almost didn't make the team? He also leads the team in PDO though at 107.1, so we can expect to see some regression in his numbers.
  • David Legwand is now relegated to fourth-line duty. In my opinion, if he plays fourth-line minutes with some powerplay time and some penalty kill face-offs, that's near-perfect deployment for the veteran.
  • Erik Karlsson only had one shot on goal against Montreal, only the third time this season he's put up that low of a number. He has no games with zero shots on goal.
  • Karlsson only has seven shots on goal in his last four games - I wonder if this is a coaching adjustment by Dave Cameron. He seems to be looking a lot more for the slap pass or to shoot the puck purposefully wide, rather than simply putting it on net.
  • As much as I like Cameron's current deployment of players (other than Phillips), how much has to do with the fact that Chris Neil and Zack Smith are injured? I don't wish injuries on anyone, but I also don't want to see those two back in the lineup anytime soon.
  • The Capitals are currently on a 6-0-2 tear.
  • Ottawa sits four points behind Washington for the final playoff spot. A win tonight, just before the Christmas break, would be huge for the team's playoff outlook.
  • Ottawa has won their last seven against the Capitals, only one of which has not been in regulation.
  • Whatever happens, the TSN headline will be "Capital Gains".

Here are some stats for the two teams tonight. All stats are from NHL.com except Corsi and Fenwick are from naturalstattrick.com.

Category Ottawa Washington
Player # Player #
Goals Mike Hoffman 10 Alex Ovechkin
15
Assists Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris
16 Nicklas Backstrom
24
Points Karlsson and Turris
23 Nicklas Backstrom
34
Shots Erik Karlsson 125 Alex Ovechkin
152
Average Ice time Erik Karlsson 27:28 John Carlson
23:14

Category Ottawa Washington
# Rank # Rank
Goals For 2.61 19th 2.94 7th
Goals Against 2.70 19th 2.56 14th
Corsi % 47.90% 25th 51.33% 13th
Fenwick % 45.86% 27th 51.29% 14th
Shots For 28.8 23rd 30.2 15th
Shots Against 34.1 28th 27.6
4th