Mika Zibanejad had a decent outing in his first game as the centre on the Ottawa Senators’ top line. However, a home game against the arugably one-line Buffalo Sabres is a far cry from what the 19 year old centre-turned winger-turned centre will face tonight when the Senators square off against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins.
At home, Paul MacLean did a great job at getting Zack Smith out against the Cody Hodgson – Thomas Vanek combination, effectively shutting them down. He won’t have the same luxury tonight. Dan Bylsma will have the opportunity to get one of his top lines out against the rookie centre, and the spotlight will switch to Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek to support Zibanejad in his own end.
Zibanejad took only 8 faceoffs (although he won 4), and just one in the defensive zone. He was credited with 3 shots on goal, along with 2 hits and a blocked shot in just over 14 minutes of action.
Not a bad outing, but MacLean won’t be able to protect him on the road like he did at home, so expect a lot of shifting around for defensive zone faceoffs and seeing Smith and Kyle Turris between Alfredsson and Michalek at least to start a lot of defensive zone shifts.
It will also be a chance for Zibanejad to step up and show he belongs, with a good performance aganist some of the game’s top players.