Friday’s game is the Senator’s second in their longest road trip of the season. They play their next 6 games on the road after starting with a 3-2 loss in Boston. It was an exciting game on all counts and got away from the usual, tight-checking affairs of the past while maintaining the goaltending duel that we’ve come to expect. One can project that coach MacLean will have them revert to a more typical game plan for Buffalo but who knows what our “Pesky Sens” may have in mind.
19-11-6, 44 points = 6th Eastern Conference
14-17-6, 34 points = 12th Eastern Conference
TV: Rogers Sportsnet, Radio: Team 1200
HEAD TO HEAD
Their previous meeting was a 4-3 OT win in Buffalo on March 16th. Kyle Turris scored the power-play winner at 3.54 of overtime with the assists going to veterans Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar. Ben Bishop got the win while facing 34 shots and Ryan Miller took the loss while facing 36 shots. Craig Anderson is ready to return from his ankle injury but MacLean has not made any announcements as to his starter for tomorrow’s game.
The Ottawa Senators are looking to rebound from their loss against the Boston Bruins. It was their 4th loss in as many meetings against them this season. The Senators were keeping pace with just about everything the Bruins were throwing at them except a little bit of puck luck in front of Robin Lehner. The Bruins fired 50 shots at Lehner and the Senators fired 47 at Anton Khudobin. It was an uncharacteristic game where each team traded chances and got away from their normal tight-checking affairs. Unfortunately, Bruins fans left happier than Senators fans by the time the final buzzer sounded.
Buffalo Sabres’ last game was Tuesday, a 4-1 win over the Pittsburg Penguins. It broke a 15 game-winning streak by the Penguins at their Consol Energy Center and also broke a 4 game losing streak by the Sabres. One thing’s for sure – Jason Pominville won’t be named one of the game’s stars as he was shipped to the Minnesota Wild yesterday at the NHL’s trading deadline. Other teammates that have been moved recently included TJ Brennan, Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr. If Thomas Vanek hasn’t returned from injury, goals may be harder to come by. Cody Hodgson is the only other Sabre with a goal total in the double digits – he sits at 13 for the season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Colin Greening, OTT – has 3 goals and 1 assist in his last 5 games. Greening’s been a versatile player when used throughout the line-up. He was a healthy scratch earlier in the season and watched one game from the press box – ever since then he’s responded well and played his game. His offense has come alive recently and his hard work has been paying off. Many speculated that his 1st season in the NHL playing on a line with Jason Spezza had inflated his numbers, but this season he projects to finish with only 1 less goal (16) and he’s improved his plus/minus while doing it. This is Greening’s second full NHL season.
Cody Hodgson, BUFF – will be tasked with leading the offence into battle against the stingy Senators. It looks like it may be an uphill battle as Buffalo has also traded two veteran defensemen from their back end, a presence that helped get the puck out of their zone. Hodgson has 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points in 34 games. The Sabres must be happy with their acquisition as he would be on pace, in a regular season, to finish with nearly 63 points. No word on whether or not newly acquired players Matt Hackett or Johan Larsson will be in their lineup.
3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
- Goaltending – who’s going to get the nod? Anderson is suppose to be ready to play – will MacLean decide to put him in or will he reward Robin Lehner for his fine play in the lose against Boston a few nights ago?
- How will the Buffalo Sabres react to the loss of three defensemen over the past weeks? How will their team offense work with their current top scorer, Thomas Vanek, on the sidelines and their former captain, team leader and third leading goal-scorer traded away? Can their goaltenders rise to the occasion and accomplish what they haven’t been able to all season long – steal some games?
- Cory Conacher was put on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg at today’s practice. MacLean said it was to “find the best place for him to have success early”. It should be interesting to see how 93 and 33 play with another explosive skater on their line and how the Sabres’ depleted defense handles the pressure. Since recovering from his health issues Guillaume Latendresse has been a very effective player for the Senators. Wouldn’t be great if he can bring some chemistry and offense to another line?
Paul MacLean will have his team on high alert. Buffalo should be good for two points with their current rebuild in affect and the change in personnel but no one – especially the Ottawa Senators – can afford to take their foot off the pedal. This road trip will have implications on the matchups that occur in the play-offs and the way they play their Eastern Conference foes will help determine the game plan going forward. All hands on deck – this is the hardest part of the schedule and a proving ground for many of the young Senators who’ll soon be called upon to pick up the gauntlet and take a run at the play-offs. Go-Sens-Go!