Game 28 preview: Ottawa Senators @ Florida Panthers

A preview of the game between the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers on 3 December 2013.

This is it. I don't want to be overly dramatic but tonight is a must-win game for the Ottawa Senators. With 55 games left, the Senators are sitting 7 points behind the Maple Leafs for the last playoff spot, but also have the Hurricanes, Flyers and Devils between them and Toronto. If this team cannot beat the Florida Panthers given the situation tonight, what hope do they have? I am calling it the game of the season tonight!

The Senators will start their #1 goaltender tonight (that is Craig Anderson by the way) while Marc Methot is a game time decision with the flu. Here are the lines from Sylvain St-Laurent.

MacArthur - Spezza - Zibanejad
Hoffman - Turris - Ryan
Michalek - Smith - Neil
Conacher / Kassian - Greening - Condra

Methot - Karlsson
Phillips - Corvo
Cowen / Wiercioch - Gryba

Anderson (starter)

Some notes for tonight:

  • Florida is in Ottawa's division. The Senators are 6-1-1 against their division. The one regulation loss was against Detroit on Sunday. The Senators have won only 4 out of 19 games outside the Atlantic Divison. The Panthers are 0-5-1 against the Atlantic.
  • The improving Senators defence has now moved into fourth last in shots allowed and under 35 shots/game!
  • Would you be surprised to know that the Senators are 11th in power play goals this year? And only one goal away from being seventh.
  • You would probably not be surprised to know that the Senators have allowed the most goals in the NHL while on the penalty kill. Craig Anderson's shorthanded save percentage of 77% is a big part of that.
  • The Leafs begin a brutal stretch of games against San Jose, Dallas, Ottawa, Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile the Senators next six games are Florida, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Buffalo again. There is a real chance of getting back into the race here.
  • Erik Karlsson is sixth in the NHL in assists. That's pretty good.
  • You have to like what the Senators are doing with their forwards. They have insulated Spezza with two of the club's best wingers by possession metrics. This should help keep the captain out of the defensive zone.
  • The Panthers really cannot score. Just over two goals per game and their leading scorer has 14 points - the same as Milan Michalek. This is a good chance as any to get Craig Anderson's confidence back.

My prediction: we are going to kill the Panthers. Erik Karlsson will have 4 points. 7-4 Ottawa.

Here are some stats leaders for the two teams tonight.

Category Ottawa Florida
Player # Player #
Goals Bobby Ryan 13 Brad Boyes 8
Assists Erik Karlsson 20 Brian Campbell 10
Points Erik Karlsson 27 Scottie Upshall 14
Shots Jason Spezza 79 Tomas Fleischmann 64
Average Ice time Erik Karlsson 27:47 Brian Campbell 26:54

Category Ottawa Florida
# Rank # Rank
Goals For 2.89 8th 2.11 27th
Goals Against 3.22 26th 3.22 26th
Corsi Close % 48.6% 22nd 49.5% 15th
Fenwick Close % 47.3% 24th 49.0% 18th
Shots For 32.0 5th 28.8 20th
Shots Against 34.9 26th 29.2 11th

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