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Game 16 Preview and Open Thread: Ottawa Senators @ Colorado Avalanche

After an extended recovery period, it’s a tough opponent on the road.

Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

No matter how things are on the ice, it’s always exciting to see your hockey team return to action following a long break. After a week in which three games were postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the Ottawa Senators (4-10-1) begin a four-game road trip against the Colorado Avalanche (8-5-1), who are looking to extend their current winning streak to five games.

Most of Ottawa’s roster has been removed from Covid protocol, however, Drake Batherson and Nikita Zaitsev remain out. Lassi Thomson, the 19th pick from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, is still with the big club, while the rest of those called up from the AHL have been sent back down. Tonight, they’ll hope to avoid being shut out in three of their last four games.

The Avalanche, in the meantime, haven’t been the juggernaut they were last season. They’re obviously still really good, but popularity has passed them by, with everyone going on about up-and-coming teams like the Panthers and Wild these days. Honestly, it could be just what the doctor ordered for them. They were hyped up as cup favourites for the last two years, only to lose in the second round twice. At some point, it must grate on their younger fans, that they’re constantly reminded of how lucky they are to watch the Avs when the likes of Terry Pegula’s Buffalo Sabres and Eugene Melnyk’s Ottawa Senators have been to the third round of the playoffs more recently. Well, now they’re a strong hockey team and nothing more, just like the teams that lifted the trophy in previous seasons.

Anyway, here’s an early look at the projected lines for tonight’s game:

Game Notes:

  • Filip Gustavsson, starting tonight, has a 3-3-1 record with a .915 save percentage. For the time being, it’s encouraging to finally have a goalie who can consistently give the Senators a chance to win. Overall, the defensive unit has hung the young netminder out to dry, but they’ve been above average in the last four games — according to NaturalStatTrick, they allowed 2.04 expected goals per sixty minutes at 5-on-5, which is much better than their current rate of 2.42.
  • Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Tim Stützle? Sign me up! Flanked by the team’s best shooter in Norris, as well as Tkachuk’s net-front presence, Stützle can hopefully break out with a couple of assists tonight. It appears this top line is going to be responsible for the bulk of the offense, while all that can be asked of the others is to just hold off the Avalanche attack as best they can.
  • Part of the reason for Ottawa’s recent defensive improvement might have something to do with Lassi Thomson being inserted into the lineup. While on the ice, high-danger scoring chances have been nearly nonexistent at both ends. However, with a depleted forward corps, it’s easy to see why the offense hasn’t been there. Should he keep up his play, Ottawa should try to keep him on the roster, even if it means sending a player on a one-way deal to the minors.
  • Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon, who has been out with a lower-body injury on a week-to-week basis, has resumed skating. One could point out his absence as being the reason the Avs haven’t met expectations, but they’ve won four games in a row with him out of the lineup, so I don’t know what to tell you.
  • Puck drop is scheduled for 8:30 pm EST, and the game will be available on Sportsnet One, RDS, and TSN 1200.

Stats (from NHL.com and NaturalStatTrick.com):

Team Stats

Game 42 Ottawa Senators Carolina Hurricanes
Game 42 Ottawa Senators Carolina Hurricanes
Category # Rank # Rank
Goals/GP 2.76 21st 3.47 5th
Goals Against/GP 3.32 24th 2.37 1st
Shots/GP 30.3 19th 32.9 12th
Shots Against/GP 33.3 27th 28.3 2nd
Powerplay % 18.4 22nd 24.8 10th
Penalty Kill % 80.0 15th 88.7 1st
Corsi % (5v5 SVA) 46.66 28th 55.25 3rd
xGF % (5v5 SVA) 46.82 24th 53.99 5th

Player Stats

Game 42 Ottawa Senators Carolina Hurricanes
Game 42 Ottawa Senators Carolina Hurricanes
Category Player # Player #
Goals Josh Norris 18 Sebastian Aho 19
Assists Drake Batherson 21 Sebastian Aho 26
Points Drake Batherson 34 Sebastian Aho 45
Shots Brady Tkachuk 133 Andrei Svechnikov 130
Time on Ice/GP Thomas Chabot 27:08:00 Jaccob Slavin 23:51:00