Sunday, October 30th, 2011
Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200
I don’t know for sure, but I am guessing that it has been some time since the Battle of Ontario featured both teams in playoff spots, even this early in the season. As it sits right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a hold on first place in the Northeast Division (and the 2nd seed in the conference), while Ottawa is in a 4 team tie occupying 5th to 8th spots. Toronto upset the conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night, while Ottawa provided yet another case of 3rd period magic to come back from being down 4-1 to win in a shootout.
The down side of the victory yesterday was the loss of captain Daniel Alfredsson after being blindsided by the Rangers’ Wojtek Wolski. Nikita Filatov has been recalled from Binghamton to replace Alfredsson in the lineup for this game, and who knows how many more. (EDIT: Even though Filatov was recalled from Bingo, Bobby Butler will draw into the lineup for Alfredsson)
Both clubs are in the top 5 offensively, with Toronto scoring 3.3 goals per game and Ottawa scoring 3.o0. Defensively, both are in the bottom five, with the Leafs allowing 3.20 GPG and the Sens 3.91. With 2 potent offenses and weak defenses, it would point to a Winnipeg-Philadelphia style shootout. The first meeting of the season was a wide open affair, with (not surprisingly) the Senators falling behind early. They mounted a valiant comeback in the third period but fell short in a 6-5 Toronto win in the second game of the season.
The starting goaltenders will be Craig Anderson for Ottawa (EDIT: After the morning skate it was announced that Robin Lehner will start for Ottawa) and probably James Reimer for Toronto, although the Leafs #1 is currently on IR with whiplash symptoms from being run over earlier in the week. He is eligible to come off IR prior to the game, if he is ready. If he cannot go, Jonas Gustavsson will get the call.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Phil Kessel, RW (TOR) – Currently leads the NHL in goals (10) and points (18). He is a plus 6 and has scored the winning goal in 3 of Toronto’s 7 wins. He has recently found chemistry with off season acquisition Tim Connolly, who missed the first 8 games of the season with an upper body injury. Kessel excelled without him, and needs to be a player to be reckoned with now that he has a presence in the middle.
Jason Spezza, C, (OTT) – Sits tied for 2nd in NHL scoring with 7 G and 8 A for 15 points. Currently on a 6 game point streak during which he has registered 11 points. There will be more pressure on him than ever if Alfredsson is out for an extended period of time. The Toronto native has 51 points in 47 career games against his hometown team.
With a Sunday night game, it could be an opportunity for Sens Army to finally drown out Leaf Nation, as the number of fans making the trip from Toronto should be less than normal. There are actually still plenty of tickets remaining for the game, so get out and watch one of the most exciting teams going right now. Just a word of advice: Even if the Sens fall behind, DO NOT leave the game until the final buzzer! The way the Sens are playing, it really isn’t over till its over, and no lead is safe.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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