Two bitter rivals who are struggling mightily meet tonight with both looking to use a win in the Battle of Ontario to propel them out of the doldrums and hopefully to bigger and better things.
7:00 pm, Canadian Tire Centre
TV: CBC; RADIO: TSN1200
This is the second meeting of the season between the clubs. The first meeting was in game 2 for the Senators, and it pretty much set the tone for the season so far. Toronto scored first, but Ottawa rebounded and ended up taking a 4-2 lead, but failed to hang onto that and lost 5-4 in a shootout on a controversial Mason Raymond spin-o-rama goal.
Ottawa split a pair of games on the Florida road trip, beating the Panthers 4-2 Tuesday before falling to the Lightning 3-1 on Thursday. Trevor Smith scored in OT and Jonathan Bernier made 48 saves as the Leafs beat Dallas 3-2 on Thursday, snapping a 5 game losing streak.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nazem Kadri, TOR – With Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland both out long term, Kadri is the man up the middle. He scored both goals in regulation against the Stars, giving him 9 goals and 10 assists in 25 games this season.
Craig Anderson, OTT – Anderson is looking to build on a strong final 50 minutes against the Panthers, where he earned the win. He is 6-5-1 against Toronto, including the OT loss earlier this season. He has struggled along with a 7-8-2 record this season, something that needs to get better if the Sens are going to be successful
TOP 3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
1. MUST WIN – This game is absolutely vital for the Senators. The Maple Leafs currently sit in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and sit 7 points ahead of the Senators. The math is simple – an Ottawa regulation win and the gap is 5 points. An Ottawa regulation loss and it becomes 9, with 5 teams to jump past. Its not tough to see that even at this point in the season, that would be too much to overcome for a team that has yet to show any level of consistently.
2. Reimer Time- Leafs goalie James Reimer has a career 8-1-1 record against the Senators, with 3 shutouts and a 1.69 GAA. With the revolving door in the Toronto crease, Reimer will no doubt get the start despite Bernier’s heroics on Thursday.
3. Falling Leafs – The Maple Leafs have been sliding in the standings, and also on the ice. Injuries to Bozak, Bolland, Joffrey Lupul, Colton Orr have weakened the front end, and that is not even taking into account that Phil Kessel is less than 100%. The Senators need to capitalize on a weakened foe.
A Saturday night Senators game? A rarity this season, and just because the Leafs are in town. Ottawa so rarely gets the call for Hockey Night in Canada that they should be extra motivated…not that the fact that a loss will create panic should not be motivation enough.