Week Ahead: Feb 2 to 8

A 4 game week for the Sens going in to the Olympic break

This is one scary looking week.  But consider this - Ottawa beat each and every one of these teams the last time they played them.

One administrative note: After the Olympic break, the "Week Ahead" feature will be moving to Saturday mornings.

Senators at Penguins

Game 56, Monday, February 3rd, 7pm
Previous game
@Coyotes, Saturday, February 1st
Next game
@Sabres, Wednesday, February 5th
Jussi Jokinen - 4P (1G, 3A) in last 2 GP
Paul Martin - 0P in last 5 GP

The Penguins could possibly be only the 3rd strongest team that Ottawa faces this week, but it's close.

For the team leading the Eastern Conference, they've been kind of up and down lately.  They've still posted a winning record in their last 10, but their only strong possession game at 5 on 5 came in the win against Buffalo.  Three of their wins came on the back of shooting percentages above 15%, which is really lucky.  This isn't to say they're a weak team - they're definitely not.  Just that they aren't necessarily as scary as they have been.

Sidney Crosby still leads the league in points, but has declined to just a point per game in the last 10. Chris Kunitz is down to a point per game overall, Evgeni Malkin is only on pace for 87 points and James Neal hasn't even cracked the top three on the team with his performance at above a point per game.

As for team stats, they sit at first for both PP and PK, top 10 for goals for, goals against and shots against per game.  Only shots for per game is outside of the top 10, at 15th.

Senators at Blues

Game 57, Tuesday, February 4th, 8pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
Predators, Saturday, February 1st
Next game
Bruins, Thursday, February 6th
David Backes - 6P (2G, 4A) in last 6 GP
Brian Elliott - .880 SV% in last 6 GP

What a difference a conference makes. The Blues are one point up on the Penguins, but third in the West to Pittsburgh's first in the East.

They're another team that's been up and down recently, while still putting up a winning record during that stretch.

Alexander Steen leads the Blues in points, and only had his recent points streak stopped on Friday night. The former powerhouse goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott has declined on one side (guess which!), with the team posting a .913 SV%. Halak has been up and down as well, but more up than down and not nearly as far down.

Their power play is second in the league and the penalty kill is 4th, so it's two games against tough special teams back-to-back.  They're also the second best team in terms of allowing shots against, behind only New Jersey.  They don't fare nearly as well in shots per game, but make up for it with a higher than average shooting percentage.

They've got a very good 5 on 5 close Fenwick For % on the season, but it has been trending downwards for some time now, to the point that the rolling 10 game average is a pretty dismal 47.9%.

Sabres at Senators

Game 57, Thursday, February 6th, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
Penguins, Wednesday, February 5th
Next game
Hurricanes, Tuesday, February 25th
Christian Ehrhoff - 5P (2G, 3A) in last 4 GP
Jhonas Enroth - 0.866 SV% in last 4 GP

It's the return of Tim Murray!

Last in goals per game, second last in shots for and shots against, 24th in the power play.  Goals against and Penalty kill are actually middle of the pack, but not enough to save them this season.

Thomas Vanek, who has been an Islander since October, has the highest point pace for the Sabres this year. Cody Hodgson isn't too far behind, at 0.66. His team leading 14 goals are good enough for 85th in the league. They just don't have the scoring touch this year.

One bright spot left for them is Ryan Miller, who as their only bright spot left is talked about in every single trade rumour involving the Sabres. He's stolen a few wins for them this year, and his .925 SV% is second only to his Vezina year.

I saw someone refer to playing Buffalo as the "bonus round".  That's not too far off, and with this being the second game of a back to back with travel for them it's as close to a freebie as you can get in the NHL.

Senators at Bruins

Game 58, Saturday, February 8th, 3pm
Previous game
@Blues, Thursday, February 6th
Next game
@Sabres, Wednesday, February 26th
Jarome Iginla - 9P (2G, 7A) in last 5 GP
Brad Marchand - 0P in last 3GP

What a way to go in to the Olympic break.  Despite being behind the Penguins and the Blues in the standings, Boston may be the toughest opponent of the week.

They sit in fifth for goals for and second for goals against and don't rely on their power play to do it, though their power play is very dangerous at 20.5%.  Their possession numbers at 5 on 5 close are high and trending upwards.  They do have the second highest PDO in the league indicating there may be some room for regression, but it is still within the range that the top teams sometimes manage over the course of a full season.

Their scoring depth is impressive - they've managed to get as high in league scoring as they have without a single point per game player. David Krejci comes closest at 0.86 points per game. Reilly Smith leads the team with 18 goals, and doesn't crack the top 30 in the league. All told, they've got 8 players between 12 and 18 goals.

Then add in impressive years from both Tuukka Rask and Chad Johnson in then net. Rask's .928 SV% is 5th on the leaderboard, and Johnson's .923 over 16 games is very good for a backup goaltender.

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