Game 17 preview: New York Islanders @ Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators hope to continue their strong play at home when they host the New York Islanders tonight.

Having won 2-1 in a shootout yesterday afternoon in New Jersey, the Ottawa Senators will look to make it two wins in a row when they host the New York Islanders tonight. They Islanders also played yesterday afternoon and lost 7-0 at home to the Philadelphia Flyers. As a comparison, the Senators have scored seven goals combined in their last six games, not counting shootout goals.

The Senators will make three changes tonight. Craig Anderson will return in net while Mika Zibanejad and André Benoît will return in the place of Jim O'Brien and Mike Lundin. Milan Michalek and Peter Regin are still unavailable and Michalek might require surgery. As it was an optional skate this morning, I am unable to determine the lines for tonight's game.

Rick DiPietro will start for the Islanders and occasional hockey player Matt Carkner is out with an injury. May God help John Tavares tonight without his usual protection.

Some thoughts for tonight:

  • This will be the first home game in the AEK era and thus the first chance to see how Paul MacLean chooses to match his defencemen against the opposition's forwards. I'd expect Sergei Gonchar to get the John Tavares assignment given how much MacLean has leaned on him for the tough minutes. On the other hand, with Karlsson gone, perhaps MacLean will try to put Gonchar in more offensively favourable situations?
  • Ottawa has just one regulation loss in eight home game this season, which was the 1-0 loss to Winnipeg on 9 February.
  • On paper, neither Ottawa's defence nor its goaltending is elite talent with the exception of Erik Karlsson. Despite that, the Senators have allowed two goals or less in 13/16 games after the first 60 minutes (not counting empty net goals or overtime). While Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop have been great and largely mistake free, they haven't had to stand on their head for too many games. I have to give the credit for Paul MacLean here. What he has done in limiting chances with this player group has been nothing short of remarkable. Trustache.
  • In the two games since Karlsson went down, according to the scoring chances tracked by Scott at The 6th Sens, Ottawa has created 18 scoring chances 5-on-5 and allowed 17. If you feel the last two games have been boring, they really have been.
  • Ottawa's 5-on-5 shooting percentage with Stephane Da Costa on the ice is 0.00%. Now that's bad puck luck. As a team and counting special teams, the Senators are shooting under 7%. The Senators also lead the NHL with 211 missed shots. Missing elite talent, unusually low shooting percentage and leading the league in missed shots is a great recipe for not scoring.

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