It's a long season. That's not to say that the Ottawa Senators aren't already up against it; to reach the coveted 98 points that has virtually assured teams play-off qualification in recent seasons, Ottawa will need to play at a 103 point pace for the rest of the year. The road ahead is tough, indeed.
But, again, it's also a long season: there are 70 games remaining across nearly six months. The highs and the lows will be plentiful. Making definitive pronouncements about what the Sens are or aren't at this stage is a fool's errand at best. Are they the team that prevailed 6-3 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday or the team that fell on its face 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday? The answer is that they are both of those teams because a very good squad can lay down both of those performances just as well as a very bad outfit could. If the noise surrounding the Sens feels particularly loud these days, and with Boo-gate a fresh point of contention, then it's best to remind ourselves of just how long the road really is.
Tonight the Sens are presented with a golden opportunity to depart the continent with some good vibes. The Calgary Flames have had a perhaps even more disappointing start to their season than our local heroes, and they're on the second night of a back-to-back where they played a full sixty-five minutes of a hard fought game against the Leafs. One win alone doesn't a season make, but the five days between games will feel a lot more bearable with two points in the bag tonight.
Here's how the Sens are expected to line 'em up today based on the morning skate:
-My beloved Short King Erik Brännström returns to the line-up tonight for the first time since he suffered that scary head injury against the New York Islanders. With his return to the line-up Nikolas Mantipalo was returned to the AHL and it looks like Tyler Kleven will be a healthy scratch. The third pair missed the diminuitive Sweded in a big way.
-Drake Batherson has struggled quite badly for most of this year, so I am not surprised to see Tarasenko takes his place alongside Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris. To date DJ Smith has been reluctant to pull number 19's spot on the top power play unit, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that change if things continue as they are.
-Speaking of under-performance, a persistent theme with the Flames for the last two years has been the play of Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau has not been able to replicate his offensive output from his time in Florida, and has gone through several benchings and other assorted drama. Only seven more years at a 1o.5M AAV after this one!
-While we don't have the full Calgary line-up available, we do know that Dustin Wolf will start in net after Dan Vladar played last night. Jakob Markstrom remains out with an injury.
-Puck Drop is 7pm ET, you can watch on Sportsnet One, or listen along on TSN1200 and Unique FM 94.5.
-From NHL.com and naturalstattrick.com:
|Goals||Brady Tkachuk||8||Andrew Mangiapane||4|
|Assists||Tim Stützle||12||Elias Lindholm||6|
|Points||Tim Stützle||15||Mangiapane, Kadri, Lindholm||8|
|Shots||Brady Tkachuk||45||Nazem Kadri||42|
|TOI/GP||Jakob Chychrun||24:40:00||Rasmus Andersson||25:01:00|