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
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.
|Goals||Mike Hoffman||23||Tyler Ennis||15|
|Assists||Erik Karlsson||34||Matt Moulson||20|
|Shots||Erik Karlsson||220||Tyler Ennis||144|
|Average Ice time||Erik Karlsson||27:02||Zach Bogosian||26:57|
|5v5 Corsi %||49.68%||20th||36.95%||30th|
|5v5 Fenwick %||47.81%||23rd||38.04%||30th|
GO SENS GO!