As we reach the halfway point of the season, the Ottawa Senators sit just outside of a playoff spot and the storylines that have followed this team remain unchanged. But it wasn't all bad this week, as Sens fans had some reasons to become a little more optimistic about their team.
1) Returning from injury
The Sens have dealt with the injury bug for what feels like the majority of the season. While their top players have only missed a few games (Bobby Ryan with a broken finger, for example), players like Clarke MacArthur and Milan Michalek have missed significant time with injuries so far. But on Thursday night, Michalek, Mika Zibanejad and Cody Ceci returned to the line up against the Florida Panthers.
Michalek was out for over five weeks with a broken finger. And while he hasn't exactly been the team's top player with just eight points in 24 games (before getting hurt), it's always a relief to see players come back from injury. Mark Borowiecki even moved up to forward to fill the gap. Needless to say, Michalek's return is a welcomed change after that fiasco. He even scored a goal in his first game back!
Also returning on Thursday night were Cody Ceci and Mika Zibanejad. Ceci suffered a rib... sorry, "upper body" injury in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning before Christmas. In Zibanejad's case, that situation looked like it could have been much worse. In Monday's game against the St. Louis Blues, Zibanejad caught a high stick in the eye and left the game immediately. With the nature of his injury, many were worried that he might be out for some significant time. Thankfully, it looks like Zibanejad is healing nicely.
In a season that hasn't given us a lot to get excited about (except for Erik Karlsson), it's great to see players come back from injuries. Who knows what this will do to the morale of the team and their play going forward.
2) Clarke MacArthur
One player who has yet to return to the line up is Clarke MacArthur. After suffering a concussion in October, MacArthur has not played a single game and we've received very few updates. But that changed this week.
MacArthur skated (without equipment) before his teammates on Wednesday. While this may not seem very significant, it's the first positive sign we've seen in MacArthur's case since he last played. It's no secret that the team could use his help right now. With 55 and 36 points (respectively) in his first two seasons with the Senators, he's an important contributor to the team's offence.
However, in this case, it's not just about what he brings to the line up, it's about his own health. We've all seen the damage that head injuries can do. And any time a player goes down with a concussion, it's hard not to worry about their health going forward.
Seeing MacArthur skate again is a step in the right direction, and hopefully a sign that he is on his way to a full recovery.
3) Healthy scratches
For the first time this season, Alex Chiasson was a healthy scratch. He did not dress for Thursday's game, marking the first game he has missed all season. It didn't come as much of a surprise. With just five points in 40 games, Chiasson hasn't made much of a difference in the line up. He's looked good at times (his speed is his primary strength), but even for a bottom-six forward, Dave Cameron clearly expects more from him.
Jared Cowen was also scratched for the game against the Panthers; the fourth game in a row that Cowen has sat out. It looks like management has had enough of Jared Cowen (finally!) and are looking to move him at some point. So it's no surprise that they haven't played him recently. Darren Dreger confirmed the rumour of Cowen's possible move this week, and Trevor wrote in more detail about it here.
As much as I wish that Cowen could be a piece of the Jonathan Drouin trade that has taken the NHL rumour mill by storm this week, it's going to take a little more than that to move him. But who knows, maybe the Sens can put together a nice package and slip Jared Cowen in there some how. Regardless of how it happens, it's getting more and more likely that Cowen will be moved in the very near future.
4) McCormick's first goal
On Thursday night, Max McCormick scored his first NHL goal! While all alone in the slot, he had plenty of time to fire a shot past Roberto Luongo.
first NHL goal for McCormick, congratulations pic.twitter.com/k7Ecb4jB3A— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 8, 2016
Drafted in the 6th round in 2011 by the Senators, McCormick is finally getting a good look at the NHL level. He played for Ohio State University from 2011 to 2014 and has been with the Binghamton Senators ever since. He began to garner more attention over the summer, making our Top 25 Under 25 series and being highly recognized for the energy he brings to the ice.
You never know where young players are going to end up, but watching someone score their first NHL goal never gets old. Congratulations Max!
5) Erik "All Star" Karlsson
The NHL released its All-Star Game roster this week, and to no one's surprise, Sens captain Erik Karlsson was named to the Atlantic Division squad. This marks the third All-Star appearance for Karlsson, and it is very well deserved. Karlsson is, as usual, among the top contenders for the Norris Trophy this season, and has even garnered Hart Trophy discussion.
He is tied for fourth overall in scoring, and first (by far) in points among defencemen. In just his 7th season in the NHL, Karlsson has only been passed over for the All-Star game once. Way to go, Erik!
GIF: much-requested Karlsson wink pic.twitter.com/eHabjSkvBR— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 25, 2015
The All-Star game also kicked off a very weird week in the NHL. Not only was Sidney Crosby left out of the roster, but both Leo Komarov and John Scott (we all know why) were named to the team. Oh, and the Florida Panthers are the top team in the Atlantic Division. I think it's safe to say we are in the middle of the Apocalypse, people. Be safe!
Thanks for reading!