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Game 17 Preview + Open Thread: Ottawa Senators @ San Jose Sharks

Let’s look for some positives, shall we?

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Well, there’s nowhere to go but up. As of this writing, the Ottawa Senators sit dead last in the NHL with a meagre nine points from their first sixteen games. You could quibble a bit with the definition of last to say that, actually, the Sens are 31st by PTS% and the Arizona Coyotes are the real worst team in the league almost a quarter of the way through the season. Regardless of whether you think Ottawa is the actual worst team in the league, there can be no disputing that they are currently playing like a bottom-dweller: 30th in score-and-venue-adjusted CF% and xGF% makes it clear that their position is well-earned.

Monday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche was a useful reminder of what a real contender looks like; the 7-5 score line deeply flattered the Sens, and it being even that close took a Zach Sanford hat-trick (?!).

On top of it all, Ottawa remains without several of its key players: Drake Batherson remains out for at least this road trip, and Shane Pinto, Colin White, and Erik Brännström all will be sidelined for the long-term. Things are a bit bleak you might say!

If, however, you want to look on the bright side of things there are some positives to be drawn. The Sens, after all, have only played sixteen games. There remain a whole sixty-six to go. Maybe they’ve dug themselves too deep a hole to get out of to make the play-offs, but the story of the season is far from written. Besides, with all of these injuries and COVID-related absences there have been plenty of opportunities for players who might not otherwise have gotten them. The current apple of our collective eye, Lassi Thomson, wouldn’t even be with Ottawa were it not for everything that’s befallen this squad.

There’s no guarantee that things will get better immediately, or really at all, because this is the NHL and no one will hand you a win because they feel sorry for you. But there’s also a world of possibilities that could rescue this season yet. Tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks is just such a possibility.

Here’s how the Sens practiced yesterday, and DJ Smith today confirmed this is how the team will line up. Matt Murray gets the start.

Game Notes:

  • The observant among you may have noticed that the above line-up has Tim Stützle at centre between Nick Paul and Connor Brown. With the Sens’ depth at centre in shambles, now is as good a time as any to give the wunderkind a chance to show what he can do.
  • Logan Shaw wore the goat horns after a bad giveaway led to the Avs tying the game at five in the third period on Monday. It’s no surprise then that he’s replaced by Parker Kelly for tonight’s affair.
  • With Batherson still out, Sanford’s hat-trick earns him a spot on the top unit alongside Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris. Was the outburst a one-time thing, or does Sanford have some real offensive upside? He’s going to get his chance to show out one way or another.
  • The Sharks are loaded with former Sens: Rudolfs Balcers, and, of course, Erik Karlsson will suit up for San Jose tonight. Jonathan Dahlen, meanwhile, will miss tonight’s affair with an upper body injury.
  • The Sharks got off to a hot start but have cooled and find themselves at 9-8-1 for the year. They’re somewhere between play-off contention and a rebuild, and they’re not the Sharks of the past decade, but there’s still a lot of skill in that line-up. The Sens would do well to keep their eyes on Thomas Hertl and Timo Meier in particular.
  • Interestingly enough, San Jose’ success such as it is driven through sound defensive play as they boast very respectable defensive metrics at even strength and on the PK.
  • Puck drop is 10:30 ET. You can watch on TSN5/RDS or follow on TSN1200 radio.

Stats:

Here are some stats, courtesy as always of NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick:

Team Stats

Game 19 Ottawa Senators Los Angeles Kings
Game 19 Ottawa Senators Los Angeles Kings
Category # Rank # Rank
Goals/GP 2.44 27th 2.53 27th
Goals Against/GP 3.83 32nd 2.74 10th
Shots/GP 29.1 24th 34.8 4th
Shots Against/GP 34.2 30th 30.2 10th
Powerplay % 17.7 20th 18.2 18th
Penalty Kill % 74.1 28th 77.1 26th
Corsi % (5v5 SVA) 44.09 30th 51.28 14th
xGF % (5v5 SVA) 45.48 29th 47.97 22nd

Player Stats

Game 19 Ottawa Senators Los Angeles Kings
Game 19 Ottawa Senators Los Angeles Kings
Category Player # Player #
Goals Josh Norris 8 Anze Kopitar 8
Assists Drake Batherson 9 Anze Kopitar 10
Points Drake Batherson 16 Anze Kopitar 18
Shots Josh Norris 48 Dustin Brown 62
Time on Ice/GP Thomas Chabot 27:19:00 Drew Doughty 22:37:00