As the Senators enter their second week of regular season play, they have taken to a familiar practice: pillaging the Binghamton roster. The B-Sens boasted the AHL's best record when Ottawa's season got underway and have since been playing deprived of their top three defenders as well as both of their goaltenders (one of whom was given back after several days). Still, the team endured, going 2-1 on their first weekend without several of their best players, buoyed by strong offensive performances from the likes of Stephane Da Costa, Corey Cowick, and Mika Zibanejad, among others. ZIbanejad in particular was offering reassuring signs of returning offensive output, putting up goals in his first three games back on the ice. With several of their leaders playing in the NHL, the B-Sens certainly needed the output of the best players still on its roster. Then, as luck would have it, Mika Zibanejad was called up to join Ottawa. Of course the call-up seems more damaging in theory than it actually is in practice. The AHL is currently on its All-Star break and the B-Sens don't play again until back-to-back match-ups on Friday and Saturday against the St. John's IceCaps in
Colin Greening's native land Newfoundland. Besides, if the Zibanejad call-up lasts longer, you wouldn't find much bitterness emanating from Binghamton. Each player that comes up and earns a spot as a full-time NHLer is testifying to the strength of Luke Richardson's Binghamton squad as a solid environment for the development of Ottawa's prospects. And that's pretty neat.
The AHL had its All-Star Game last night and though I didn't catch a glimpse of it, I did take a gander at the rosters. They're fun. Here's a fact for you: of the six goalies who will see ice time in the ASG, three of them have spent some time in the Senators organization (Robin Lehner, Barry Brust, Curtis McElhinney). At this writing, Eric Gryba has been held off the scoresheet, logging a -2 and no shots. Fortunately, nobody cares.
In thankfully more relevant matters, Binghamton won both of their games this weekend. Robin Lehner outdueled a familiar foe, stopping forty shots over regulation and overtime to Dustin Tokarski of the Syracuse Crunch's 27. At the end, however, Tokarski was the first to have any puck hit the mesh behind him, as Robin Lehner stopped all five he faced in the shootout. As it would happen, the timing was rather serendipitous for Lehner, as his fantastic winning performance came nearly simultaneously to Ottawa's 6-4 sloppy affair against Tampa Bay. Fortunately, the "politics" that have Ben Bishop playing games in the NHL haven't changed and Lehner's boosters can only point, gesticulate and argue. Outshot and victorious, the B-Sens were led by fairly solid efforts from familiar faces: Mike Hoffman and Stephane Da Costa put up strong performances.
Luke Richardson rode the hot hand on Saturday night, as Robin Lehner again faced forty shots against the Hershey Bears. Though he allowed two, Lehner looked strong and hung on again in the shootout, carrying Binghamton to a 3-2 victory. Stephane Da Costa scored for the second straight night in the shootout. Indeed, all three Bingo skaters found the back of the net in penalty kicks. Just like the Penguins. Right? Some highlights for your enjoyment:
B-SENS HIGHLIGHTS - SATURDAY, JAN. 26 VS. HERSHEY (via BinghamtonSenators)
So, in the month where their roster was partly gutted, the B-Sens put up an 8-4 record. Not too shabby.
On February 10th, the B-Sens will be playing host to the Albany Devils and are making it a "Power to the Purple Night". They're teaming up with Do It For Daron and the Mental Health for the Southern Tier foundation, encouraging fans to wear purple to the game, all geared towards encouraging conversations about youth mental health. Excellent cause. If you care to see some of the things Binghamton is doing for the game, you can read about it here.