Finally, after watching almost every team play once, and many twice over the first three days of the season, the Ottawa Senators finally get the opportunity to take the ice in their first game of the regular season.
T- 4th Atlantic Division
T-4th Atlantic Division
FIRST NIAGARA CENTER
TV: ROGERS SPORTSNET
LAST SEASON MATCHUP: The Senators went 3-1 against the Sabres last season, outscoring their division rival, outscoring them 12-10 in the process. One of Ottawa’s wins was an OT victory, so the Sabres had a 1-2-1 record.
LAST GAMES: Buffalo dropped a close 2-1 decision to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. Ryan Miller made 32 saves and it was a pair of goals within a minute that was the undoing of the Sabres. Ottawa hasn’t played since dropping a split squad double header against the Islanders on Sunday night.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Craig Anderson, OTT: His training camp injury limited his ice time, and Anderson’s last performance was a forgettable loss to the Islanders on Sunday. The Senators are hoping he can return to the form that saw him as a Vezina Trophy candidate prior to his ankle injury that forced him out of action for an extended period of time.
Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF: The big (6’4″, 220 lbs) defenseman made the club in his first season since becoming the club’s first round pick (8th overall) in the 2013 draft. He made his NHL debut on Wednesday, playing almost 17 minutes, including 4 minutes on the power play. He recorded three shots on goal and was a -1. He is a key to the future of the Sabres blueline, and that future looks to be now.
TOP 3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
1. TOP LINE: Jason Spezza will make his return between Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan, and the Senators need the trio to be at full strength and firing on all cylinders for the season-opening 6 game road trip.
2. EK65: Erik Karlsson looked good in the preseason, but you get the impression that there is still another gear that he is holding on to. He was frustrated at his inability to perform up to his standard in the playoffs, despite scoring 8 points in 10 games. The sky is the limit for Karlsson this season, and his road to recapturing his Norris trophy begins tonight.
3. TUNE UP FOR B of O: The Senators open up with back to back games, and this one will be the warmup for Saturday’s first edition of the Battle of Ontario in Toronto. While you can’t look past the Sabres, so Paul MacLean must keep the team focused on playing one game at a time, or Buffalo could bite you.
The Senators have a lot of proving to do, as pre-season prognostications have ranged from them winning the President’s Trophy to missing the playoffs. They have proved doubters wrong in each of the last two seasons, and they would love to do it again.