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Week Ahead: IX - November 26th to December 2nd

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Coming off their worst week of the season, the Sens have a couple days off to rest and recuperate before trying to rebound against the Habs and Isles.

NHL: New York Islanders at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Senators @ Canadiens

Wednesday, November 29th 7:30 PM
SN, RDS

Prev game : Blue Jackets, Monday, November 27th
Next game : @Wings, Thursday, November 30th

Hot : -
Cold : Everyone... but Carey Price who's coming off a shutout
Injured : Artturi Lekhonen (IR - LBI), Ales Hemsky (IR - concussion), Nikita Scherbak (IR - knee), Shea Weber (day-to-day), Al Montoya (IR - concussion)

Losing six in a row is never good, but I’m glad it was against Metropolitan division teams. Given the strength of that division, we all know — even this early into the season — that the Metro will likely get both wild card spots. Thus, the Sens task is to beat out Detroit, Boston, and Montreal for third seed in the Atlantic:

You’ll see that thanks to the Wings also losing four in a row and having two games in hand, it’s not that the Sens have lost a ton of ground. Rather, they had a chance to create even more space at the top and join the Tampa/Toronto tier but weren’t able to capitalize. Right below the Sens are the Canadiens, who have been having a tough go to start the year. Picked almost unanimously to be in a playoff spot, they’re still in a similar position to where the Sens saw them at the end of October.

Now, keep in mind, for all of their struggles (-23 goal differential, Carey Price injury concerns and a .890 sv%, only 57 goals for), they put up eight (!) on the Sens the last time they played. Another big win like that, especially if it sends Ottawa to a seven-game losing streak, may lead to pandemonium.

For all that it’s worth, the Habs continue to have great underlying metrics: they generate more shots than their opponents and they’re getting more scoring chances across the board. However, they continue to shoot <7% as a team and get .900 sv% goaltending, which costs them games. The last time these two teams played, the shot metrics were slightly in favour of Montreal, but their shooting luck turned. Let’s hope the tides turn on Wednesday.

Senators @ Islanders

Friday, December 1st 7:00 PM
TSN5, RDS, MSG+

Prev game : Canucks, Tuesday, November 28th
Next game : @Panthers, Monday, December 4th

Hot : Josh Bailey - 28P (5G, 23A) in 23 games, John Tavares - 26P (15G, 11A) in 23 games
Cold : Jason Chimera - 3P (3A) in 23 games
Injured : Shane Prince (IR - ankle), Nikolai Kulemin (IR - shoulder)

I already previewed the Isles as a group last week, and you saw how organized they were through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone last night. The Sens played them pretty evenly, with 5-on-5 shot attempts slightly in favour of the Isles by a score of 34-30. It was a choppy, special-teams kind-of-game, though — with 11 penalties called (6 on NYI, 5 on OTT). If both teams clean up their act before Friday, we could see a very different hockey game.

In terms of matchups to watch (via HockeyViz.com), the Phaneuf - Ceci duo survived against the Bailey - Tavares - Lee line, and although Boucher tried Hoffman/Pyatt - Pageau - Thompson, it was actually the group of Smith - Brassard - Ryan that outplayed Tavares when they were on the ice together. The rest of the Isles, from the Mat Barzal-anchored second-line on down, had their way in terms of shots, though, and Nick Leddy was noticeable in quickly transitioning the puck to jumpstart offence.

I don’t even want to take a guess at the line combinations by this time next week, but I wonder if Thomas Chabot might get into the lineup to help Boucher and co. move the puck quicker to beat the speedy Isles up the ice. Additionally, if the depth players are having trouble, playing 11-7 may give the Sens top-six players more ice, and thus, a matchup advantage against the Isles bottom-six.

Whatever it is, the Sens are starting a 14-day road trip on Tuesday morning (they have Sunday/Monday off) and need to right the ship. Winning these two on a softer week will help before they have three games in four nights against the always-dangerous California teams next week.