As Dave pointed out in today's Nuggets, the Senators this week play opponents below them in the standings but still in playoff contention. I'm only repeating this because I didn't realize it and it's neat-sounding.
Tonight's opponent is a prime opportunity for the Senators, as they've just lost one of the prime scorers. Ilya Kovalchuk has 10 goals and 17 assists, behind only Patrick Elias, who has 10 goals and 19 assists. Kovalchuk is out for at least two weeks with a shoulder injury. Behind him, the team's next-highest scorer is David Clarkson, with 12 goals and 8 assists, but Clarkson has just three points (2G, 1A) in the month of March. Bench him. Am I right?
On the Senators' side, they made it through a game without injury, so someone should probably go down tonight. No, not Peter Regin, you jerks. Anyway, there are no changes to the lineup except in net, where Ben Bishop earns the start, while Robin Lehner gets to sit on the bench and think hard about what he's done. Your lines will be some mishmash of the following:
- Last time these teams played, Ottawa won 2-1 in the shootout thanks to a 30-save performance by Bishop. Bishop then stoned all three shooters by not moving and a legend was born.
- Sergei Gonchar sets a franchise record every game he notches an assist now. So, now Erik Karlsson has a goal to keep his sights on during rehab.
- Speaking of Erik Karlsson, Bruce Garrioch reports he's out of his cast today. For those of you dreaming, that means he hasn't been able to put any weight on it prior to now. Making it back for the playoffs is the longest of longshots. Even if he were able to start weight training today, there's no way he'd be cleared for full intensity. A return at the end of May would be 9 weeks from now. That's simply not enough time to get back up to playing strength.
- Ottawa's success strategy (outside of goaltending): Diversified scoring. Of the 8 players outscoring Karlsson, 2 are defensemen (Sergei Gonchar, Patrick Wiercioch), 4 are in the top six (Kyle Turris, Daniel Alfredsson, Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad), and 2 are in the bottom six: (Zack Smith, Colin Greening)
- Greening is currently playing on the first line due to Milan Michalek's injury.
- Alfredsson, Turris, and Silfverberg are all tied for the team lead with 8 goals. Who's going to break away from the pack? Smart money has to be on Ooh Ah, doesn't it?
- Last time these two teams faced off, Alfie led the forwards with 4 shots. Wiercioch led the team with 5 shots.
- Not appearing this time around: Stephane Da Costa, Derek Grant, Kaspars Daugavins, and Jim O`Brien.
- They've been replaced by Mika Zibanejad, Guillaume Latendresse, Peter Regin, and Matt Kassian, respectively. Ottawa's got a little more firepower for this go-around.
- PULL BISHOP