Reports emerged from practice yesterday morning that veteran Senators forward Chris Neil is getting close to playing with the team. He's been practicing for a while and skating constantly - his injury only affected his hands - so it wouldn't surprise me to see him considered for games next week. The question is: should he?
I don't think it's any coincidence that the Senators have gone on their miraculous run with their two worst everyday possession players, Neil and Phillips, out of the lineup. By my eye, the Senators haven't looked intimidated either and have played a number of physical contests. Bryan Murray's love for big players can be seen throughout the lineup, and fighting overall has gone down in the league. With Alex Chiasson already taking a number of bad penalties, I don't think the Senators can afford to have another forward with a reputation of doing so in the lineup with the 24 year old.
Neil is one of nine Senators forwards signed for next year, with a salary of $1.5M (he made $2.1M this year), although Zibanejad, Chiasson, Stone, Hoffman, and Pageau are RFAs. The only permanent, fixed right-wingers on the team are Bobby Ryan and Mark Stone, who take up the two top-six spots - Erik Condra and Milan Michalek have played both wing positions this year - and there really isn't much that's NHL ready yet in the system, with Buddy Robinson the closest bet but likely needs another AHL year. A lot of the "future" talk weighs on the shoulders of what the Senators decide to do with Alex Chiasson, who has respectable possession numbers and boxcar statistics despite higher expectations.
Wingers on the current NHL roster
Clarke MacArthur, Mike Hoffman (RFA), Colin Greening, Matt Puempel, Curtis Lazar (also plays C) - LW
Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan, Alex Chiasson - RW
Milan Michalek, Erik Condra - LW/RW
There are ten names there, not including Neil, for eight wing spots. What should the Senators do? Should Neil find himself into games this season, and if not, should he even be considered for the team next year? Let's talk in comments!
- The Sens played two games past the normal 60 minutes this week, and won them both. First, the game recaps from last night's win vs. Tampa. [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, Ottawa Citizen, SensChirp, SenShot]
- Next, the game recaps from a fantastic game (SOW) vs. Detroit [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, Ottawa Citizen, SensChirp, SenShot]
- A lot of us were freaking out after Pageau took a knee from Steven Stamkos in the second period. Pageau discusses his injury (it's sore, but he can play through it). Jack also talks about how key Pageau has been and I agree - it helps the team so much to have three strong, capable possession lines. [Ottawa Senators, SenShot]
- Nichols has thoughts on Elliotte Friedman's 30 thoughts column. In there, a tidbit on the Sens being unhappy with Anderson's injury history, and Andrew Hammond injury being to his back, not his lower body. [6th Sens, Sportsnet]
- Chet has the April edition of his off-ice power rankings!! Think someone should be higher than they're listed, or did Chet get it right? ;) [WTYKY]
- On Karlsson and the Norris Trophy: "If he plays with Methot all year, (Karlsson) probably has 90 points," said Anderson. "Doughty has had the same partner all year, Weber has had the same partner all year, but it was a revolving door for Karl (in the first half) and it's tough to play when you don't know who your defence partner is going to be from game to game." [Ottawa Citizen]
- Jack argues that Mark Stone is having the third best rookie season in Senators history. Want to guess who he put ahead of the star right-wing? [SenShot]
- Is your player of the month going to be the same as the NHL's first star of the month, Andrew Hammond? No pressure! [Silver Seven, NHL]
- It was a pretty good week for Hammond, who, despite his back injury, picked up two wins and was also named the Sens candidate for the Masterton Trophy [6th Sens, Ottawa Citizen]
- Chris Driedger, who was sent down a week ago, is getting some playing time in Binghamton, and was in net for the team's OT win vs. Syracuse that featured an awesome Chris Wideman celebration. With that goal, Wideman set a new AHL high in points (52, leading all blueliners). The Sens have also signed his brother, Alex Wideman, to an ATO after he finished his season at the University of Miami (Ohio). [SenShot, AHL]
- The Sens have been a lot better at engaging their ticket holders with events like SENSxCASINO. Did you attend? [Ottawa Senators]
- The Sens Callups gang have an April Fools podcast that recaps the past 4-5 games. I'm listening to it right now! [Sens Callups]
- Lots of discussion on the NHL's loser point this week due to the playoff race being so close + some teams "tanking" near the bottom of the standings. [Grantland, FiveThirtyEight]
- A great column on goaltender workload and how team practices may be detrimental for them. [NHL]
- Thinking of the 2016 draft already? There's some great talent, headlined by Auston Matthews, Jakob Chychrun, and Jesse Puljujarvi [NHL]
- Travis Yost has a great post on sustained offensive pressure, measured through multi-shot shifts. [TSN]