It may be unusual to have a two week pause in the middle of an NHL team’s schedule, but these last 3 seasons have been anything but usual in many ways. Yes, it’s been fourteen days since the Ottawa Senators last took to the ice; a 4-3 overtime defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. In the meantime, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the league. The Sens have not been unaffected, and tonight in fact will be without Josh Norris, Tyler Ennis, Nick Paul, and Dillon Heatherington because of COVID protocols.
Meanwhile, their adversaries tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs, look poised to be nearly full strength for the first time virtually all year. This has all the makings of a blow-out but to assume any outcome is to not understand the nature of these Sens. In fact, I might argue this is the perfect setup for Ottawa to Sens ‘em real good.
With all of the absences, here’s how DJ Smith had them lined up on Friday. I’d expect the line-up to look something like this, with Matt Murray getting the start between the pipes
Friday practice Lines:— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) December 31, 2021
Norris, Ennis, Paul and Heatherington all missing from practice.
Tkachuk Stützle Batherson
Formenton Tierney CBrown
Sanford Gambrell Watson
Bishop Gaudette Shaw
- With Norris out, Tim Stützle gets a shot at centering Ottawa’s top line. The young German has been impressive since being shifted to the middle of the ice, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on how he looks playing beside the Sens’ two best wingers.
- The magical Matt Murray saga continues: the Sens’ presumed franchise goalie will be back between the pipes tonight following a brief sojourn with the AHL’s Belleville Senators.
- Speaking of returns, Erik Brännström is back in the line-up after missing time with a broken hand. If the line rushes from yesterday are to be believed, he’ll start beside Victor Mete. I’ll let the commenters write their own short jokes.
- As much as it pains me to write this, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a very good, very deep team. It sucks, but it’s the truth. The good news for Sens fans is that every win under these circumstances is gravy, and every loss can be just be chalked up to expectations. I wouldn’t mind a repeat of last year’s 6-5 classic to kick off 2022.
- One area to watch for is the special teams battle between the Leafs’ PP and the Sens’ PK. Toronto’s been scoring at a scorching rate while Ottawa’s work down a man has been...less than inspiring. If the Sens want to give themselves a chance in this one, they’ll need a reversal of fortunes there.
- Puck drop is 7pm EST, and you can follow along on Hockey Night in Canada or listen on TSN1200/
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