The Ottawa Senators will play their first competitive game in 165 days when they open the regular season tonight in Buffalo against the Sabres. The Senators are going with basically the same team as the one eliminated against Montréal with Chris Neil replacing Erik Condra and Jared Cowen replacing Eric Gryba.
While Ottawa didn't make any additions, it is a pretty weak division with only Tampa Bay having an obviously better roster than Ottawa. The Senators should be competing with the Red Wings and Canadiens for the other automatic playoff spots in the division. Hope springs eternal on opening night and the Senators top forwards and Erik Karlsson provide hope for a much more comfortable ride into the playoffs. If Cody Ceci can improve and hold his own with Patrick Wiercioch, the club just might have a very good top four on defence as well.
Here are the lines and pairings from Gord Wilson.
Hoffman - Turris - Stone
Ryan - Zibanejad - Lazar
MacArthur - Pageau - Michalek
Chiasson - Smith - Neil
Methot - Karlsson
Wiercioch - Ceci
Cowen - Borowiecki
Here is the Sabres lineup:
Moulson - O'Reilly - Ennis
Kane - Eichel - Reinhart
Deslauriers - Legwand - McGinn
Girgensons - Larsson - Foligno
Colaiacovo - Ristolainen
Weber - Franson
Gorges - Pysyk
Some notes for tonight:
- Buffalo is still a mess on defence, but their top six looks quite good on paper. With the Senators tendency of being good offensively and struggling on defence, this should be a high scoring game.
- Jake McCabe might play as a seventh defenceman for the Sabres.
- With games against Buffalo, Toronto and Montréal, Ottawa has a fairly easy start this week. It will be important to get at least two out of three wins before games against Lumbus, Pittsburgh and Nashville next week.
- Mike Hoffman is starting on the top line for now. It was disappointing to see the coach once again bring up Hoffman's issues "away from the puck" as a reason for his decreasing ice time last year. It's funny how only skilled players are held to this standard.
- Erik Karlsson is going to get 80+ points this year. I like him quite a bit.
- Clarke MacArthur is going to be healthy enough to play but will start the game on the third line. Curtis Lazar will take his place in the top six. Lazar didn't show a lot of offensive potential in his first season, but perhaps the Senators are expecting more this season.
- Robin Lehner and David Legwand will play their first games against Ottawa since leaving.
- Karlsson lost most of his hair and this was big news in Ottawa apparently.
Stats will make an appearance starting from game two.