After a solid pair of victories this week, the Senators roll into the weekend on a bit of a roll for yet another Saturday matinee (thanks CBC!), this time against a welcome opponent and new divisional rival.
2:00 PM, Canadian Tire Centre
TV: Rogers Sportsnet; RADIO: TSN1200
The Senators have pretty much had their way with the Panthers, winning 11 of the last 13 meetings. However, the teams have split the last 4 meetings, and the Panthers scored a 2-1 victory the last time they met in April.
The Senators are riding a 4 game point streak, and have won their last 2 games by identical 4-1 scores, over the Blue Jackets on the road and the Canadiens at home. The Panthers dropped a 4-3 OT decision to the equally lowly Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, followed by a 4-1 loss tot he Bruins on Thursday, a loss that resulted in the dismissal of Kevin Dineen and the rest of the coaching staff.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA – Like many of the Panthers players, Huberdeau has struggled to gain traction in his second season after being named rookie of the year last season. With just 8 points in 16 games, the Panthers need more from one of their young guns, and soon, or the Panthers will be out of the playoff race very quickly.
Jason Spezza, OTT – The Senators’ captain and most talented forward has struggled recently at even strength, and has been overshadowed by the Kyle Turris line. Spezza has been most noticable on the power play, but needs to find a way to contribute more at even strength when the schedule gets a little tougher.
TOP 3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
1. Changes Behind The Cats’ Bench: Following the firing of Dineen and his staff, this game will mark the debut of Peter Horacek, John Madden and Brian Skrudland behind the Panthers’ bench. This could go either way, as players generally feel a sense of responsibility when a coach gets fired and tend to put in a good performance for the new bench boss.
2. Streaking Sens: The Senators all of a sudden have but together a nice points streak, and look to build on that against a struggling club and a team they should beat quite handily.
3. New Rivalry: This is the first ever meeting of the clubs as Divisional rivals. The Senators have dominated the Panthers while they were in separate divisions, and that shouldn’t change now that they meet each other more often.
What a difference a couple of games make. After the 2 shootout losses last weekend, the team was reeling and despite getting points in 2 straight games, the perception was that they had “lost” 5 in a row. Now, just 2 games later and a point out of a playoff spot, the perception is that they are on a 4 game point streak. How different those same SO losses appear at the opposite end of a streak.