Hopefully Santa Claus will bring the Senators and their fans an early Christmas present , because the way they have been playing lately, this one has the makings of not being a very close matchup, as the Senators host the elite of the East.
7:30 PM, Canadian Tire Centre
TV: Rogers Sportsnet; RADIO: TSN1200
This is the first meeting of the clubs this season, and the most recent on-ice battle was in the playoffs last spring where the Penguins dispatched the Senators in 4 games and spawned the infamous”probably not”.
The Penguins come into Ottawa on a roll, having won their last 7 games and 12 of their last 13. They beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 on Saturday afternoon. The Senators on the other hand haven’t had much success lately, having lost their last 3 games, including the 4-3 OT loss at the hands of Antoine Vermette and the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday afternoon.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT – If you threw out the past two playoff performances, Fleury would be considered a front-runner for a job with Team Canada at the Olympics. However, that is not something you can do and despite leading the league in wins and posting a very respectable 2.04 GAA and .923 SP, his name isn’t even in the conversation. He has wilted under pressure in the post-season and that reputation will follow him around.
Kyle Turris, OTT – With 4 points in his last 6 games, Turris has continued to be one of Ottawa’s most consistent forwards. Now that he has his early-season linemates back, Ottawa needs him to return to even more consistent play and more production offensively while Jason Spezza sorts his game out and the Senators find someone to play with him. With the home game and last change, look for Paul MacLean to avoid a Turris-Crosby head to head matchup, hopefully freeing Turris-Bobby Ryan-Clarke MacArthur for a more offensive role.
TOP 3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
1. Pummelled Pens – Despite missing as many as 9 regulars in their lineup due to various injuries and suspensions, the Penguins haven’t missed a beat. This includes four of their top 6 defenseman – Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and Paul Martin – as well as Evgeni Malkin.
2. Capitalize – For the Senators to win this game, they will have to do something they haven’t been able to do in some time – capitalize on mistakes. They young, inexperienced blue line will make errors, and the Senators need to turn those mistakes into goals, not just attempts.
3. When does the Drop Stop? – As tough as it has been to get points, with the Penguins and then a home and home with the Bruins right after Christmas, it could be a tough end to the calendar year for the Senators.
Sidney Crosby has taken his game to another level this season, and with all the carnage around him, he continues to put up points. He leads the league with 54 points, on a pace for 116 this season. He has 18 points in his current 10 game point streak. While the player that many people love to hate for whatever reason is making NHL defenses look silly, that is a good roll for the probable Team Canada captain to be on heading into the Olympics.