After a rivalry-building playoff series last spring, won in 5 games by the Ottawa Senators, the Sens and Montreal Canadiens meet for the first time this season.
(5-6-4, 14 pts) 6th Atlantic Division
7:00 PM, Canadian Tire Centre
TV: CBC; RADIO: TSN1200
These long-time divisional rivals have been pretty equal over the years, with a the Senators posting a 58-58-4 record in their regular season history. They met 4 times in the regular season last year, with each team winning once in regulation and once in a shootout. Then came the playoff series that was dominated in all aspects by the Senators, on the ice and off the ice. Ottawa finished the Habs of in 5 games, but the rivalry that needed a playoff series is now in full force.
Montreal dropped a 3-2 decision in OT to former teammate Jaroslav Halak and the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, the same night Ottawa broke their 5 game winless skid with a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
P.K. Subban, MTL – The gregarious Subban is the 2nd leading point getter among defensemen, with 15 points in 16 games. The defending Norris Trophy winner spent the final minutes of the St. Louis game stapled to the bench, leading to rumors of a rift in Montreal between player and coach.
Erik Karlsson, OTT – The man that Subban stole the Norris Trophy from last season due to injury, Karlsson has a 5 game point streak going that has vaulted him ahead of Subban for the league lead among defensemen with 17 points in only 15 games.
TOP 3 STORYLINES FOR TODAY’S GAME
1. Rivalry Renewed – The teams did play 2 pre-season games, but there was nothing on the line and nothing substantial happened. This is the first time they have met with some consequence since the Sens unceremoniously dumped the Habs from the post-season.
2. Boro Effect – His gaffe against the Stars where he knocked the go-ahead goal into his own net notwithstanding, Mark Borowiecki has been a presence on the blue line, and Montreal players will need to keep their heads up when he is on the ice.
3. The Lehner – Robin Lehner will probably get a couple more consecutive starts before Craig Anderson fully recovers from his stiff neck. It is an opportunity for him to take a stranglehold on the starting job, and to make it a tough decision for Paul MacLean on any night, although that is a good problem to have for the coach.
This is a huge early season game for the Senators, with a regulation win they can move within a point of the Habs and still have a game in hand. A regulation loss would take away any goodwill built up by the win in Columbus and return the fan base to near panic mode, because they could be back to 5 points out of a playoff spot and not feeling too good about the team again. A pivotal matchup on home ice this early in the season doesn’t happen too often, and the Senators need to take advantage of the opportunity.