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Game 63 Preview: Buffalo Sabres at the Ottawa Senators

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On the back of an incredible roadtrip, the Sens try to climb closer to a play-off spot tonight against Buffalo

Erik Karlsson is faster than you
Erik Karlsson is faster than you
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

On the back of an incredible road-trip, the Ottawa Senators have resuscitated their play-off hopes to a faint, but clear, pulse. They stand five points back of the stumbling Boston Bruins and hold a game in hand on their prey. Most encouraging perhaps is that the schedule turns considerably easier for the Sens over the next couple of weeks. If the play-off push is meant to be, a win against Buffalo tonight would be a good place to start.

Coach Cameron has decided not to mess with a good thing; the only change to the line-up is the return of Matt Puempel, in for Colin Greening. From this morning's skate:

Hoffman - Zibanejad - Ryan 
Michalek - Turris - Stone 
Condra - Pageau - Lazar
Puempel - Legwand - Chiasson 

Methot - Karlsson 
Wiercioch - Ceci 
Borowiecki - Gryba

Hammond (starter) 
Anderson

Some notes for tonight's game:

  • One of the most positive things about the Sens' recent streak is that it hasn't all been done on the back of "puck luck". Wednesday's game against the Jets was the only one of the five on the road trip in which Ottawa was out-played, and even then much of the damage came in the third period with the lead comfortably secured. Andrew Hammond has been spectacular but the underlying numbers are there, too. That's encouraging.
  • Buffalo is terrible, and Tim Murray made the team even worse at the trade deadline by dealing away their only competent goalie. They could lose every game the rest of the way and I wouldn't be all that surprised. Besides the Philadelphia 76ers, I can't think of a professional sports franchise that's so brazenly embraced tanking.
  • One tactical thing to watch: on the road trip, Coach Cameron did not hesitate to give a defensive zone-heavy workload to Cody Ceci and Patrick Wiercioch. It's a tactic that frees up Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot to start more often in the offensive end. I'll be watching to see if that continues because if Ceci and Wiercioch can even tread water that's a huge win.
  • Word is that tickets are selling fast in anticipation of tonight's tilt. In case you needed any motivation to get to the game, the Sens put together a cool pump-up video:

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

Category Ottawa Buffalo
Player # Player #
Goals Mike Hoffman 23 Tyler Ennis 15
Assists Erik Karlsson 34 Matt Moulson 20
Points Erik Karlsson
49 Tyler Ennis 33
Shots Erik Karlsson 220 Tyler Ennis 144
Average Ice time Erik Karlsson 27:02 Zach Bogosian 26:57

Category Ottawa Buffalo
# Rank # Rank
Goals For 2.79 14th 1.81 30th
Goals Against 2.60 15th 3.31 30th
5v5 Corsi % 49.68% 20th 36.95% 30th
5v5 Fenwick % 47.81% 23rd 38.04% 30th
Shots For 30.4 14th 23.0 30th
Shots Against 32.5 26th 35.3 30th

GO SENS GO!