Ottawa Senators: Updates from training camp

OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 28: Ottawa Senators Defenceman Thomas Chabot (72) keeps eyes on the play during third period National Hockey League action between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators on March 28, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 28: Ottawa Senators Defenceman Thomas Chabot (72) keeps eyes on the play during third period National Hockey League action between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators on March 28, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Ottawa Senators are getting ready to face the Montreal Canadiens at the Canadian Tire Centre tomorrow. The team spent yesterday and today on the ice. Here are a few things that stood out.

Following the Ottawa Senators victory over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, DJ Smith announced that the team would be taking the three groups that had been formed at the beginning of training camp and would be merging them into two groups heading into the weekend.

Forward lines remain together

The coaching staff had players in different groups on Friday compared to the groups they were in on Thursday during practice. However, the majority of the lines remained the same through the two days of practice. There have been a few lines that have been consistently together since the start of camp, and to this day they remain together.

The Anisimov/Ryan/Ennis line is one of those that has been lined up together since the start of camp and remain together as the coach starts to get a clearer picture of what his team might look like at the end of camp. The coach clearly likes the makeup and the potential of this line, and after watching them play together the other night against the Leafs, I can see what he’s hoping to see from this group. On such a young team, this is one of those very important veteran lines that the coach can roll out there in any situation and not worry. This line can – and will be relied on to – provide offence for this team that will struggle to score goals at times.

I wrote the other day that I liked the potential of this line, I like the mix between these three players. Ryan and Anisimov have a history of being somewhat productive in the NHL, but both of them can sometimes struggle with keeping up with the pace of the game. That is where I see Ennis coming in. Ennis has better speed than Anisimov and Ryan, so he can help create a little more room in the offensive zone for them by backing off defenders with his speed.

The other line that has been together since the start of camp is the Pageau one. Pageau is lined up between Anthony Duclair and Drake Batherson, and that line remains intact heading into the weekend. The Colin White/Connor Brown/Brady Tkachuk line is also one that has remained intact for DJ Smith and the Ottawa Senators throughout training camp. With these three lines, it seems to me that the head coach has a very good idea of what his top-9 forward group is going to look like come opening night.

Then there is the projected fourth line. Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers have been stapled together since the start of camp. Considering that it is safe to assume that Tierney is going to be on the opening night roster, the fact that Balcers has been stuck to him like glue since the start gives us a good impression that Balcers is as close as can be to being a lock on this team come opening night. The two have seen a rotation of wingers on the other side since the start of camp. Could that mean that Smith is expecting Mikkel Boedker to line up with Tierney and Balcers? Considering the rotating door of right-wingers that we’ve seen on this line, I would hazard to guess that it would be a fair assumption to think that Boedker ends up there when he returns to the ice.

With that, it appears that DJ Smith and the Ottawa Senators have identified their four forward lines, essentially their top-12 forwards. The battle remains for who will be the thirteenth forward, as I’d expect the team to keep thirteen forwards at the end of camp.

Defensive pairings

When it comes to the defence, we’ve also seen some consistencies since the start of camp. We’ve known all along that the organization liked the idea of Thomas Chabot being paired with Nikita Zaitsev, and so far through camp those two have been together every day. I definitely wouldn’t expect that to change going into the weekend, especially because we haven’t seen either one of them during preseason games. I’d expect both of them to play in all four remaining preseason games to try and build as much chemistry as they can.

Another mainstay since the start of camp has been Max Lajoie paired with Dylan Demelo. This is both very telling and intriguing at the same time. We know Dylan Demelo is a lock to make this team. We also know that Christian Wolanin was as close to being as he could have been before he went down to injury. So, in steps Lajoie to try and show the Ottawa Senators and the coaching staff that he can step up and take the Wolanin spot. Being paired with Demelo throughout much of camp shows us that the coaching staff likes what they’ve seen and that they are giving him every opportunity to continue showing them.

Then there’s been the Hainsey/Brannstrom pairing. Realistically, I believe this pairing is together so that Hainsey can help Brannstrom through camp and keep him from getting too overwhelmed. I fully expect Brannstrom to go down to Belleville, at least to start the season. But with that, I think it can do nothing but good for the young defenseman to have Ron Hainsey show him the ropes of being an NHLer through camp. Finally, Christian Jaros and Mark Borowiecki have also been paired together for much of camp. These eight defensemen are clearly the ones that the organization has labelled as having a shot at making the roster. I’d fully expect both Lajoie and Jaros to make the roster, and both being rotated in and out of the lineup depending on the opposition and how well they are playing.

Christian Wolanin scheduled for surgery

The Ottawa Senators announced yesterday that Christian Wolanin was scheduled to have shoulder surgery today to repair his torn labrum. Wolanin suffered this injury before training camp started, and is slated to miss the next four months because of it. As I mentioned above, Wolanin was considered by many to have the inside track of making this team as a regular ahead of Lajoie and Jaros.

Christian Wolanin sidelined due to injury. light. Related Story

What’s coming

The Ottawa Senators have spent the last two days putting in a lot of work on and off the ice. While most of the guys were on the ice yesterday, Thomas Chabot was busy signing his long-term contract extension with the club. I still can’t believe that someone committed to the Ottawa Senators for the next nine seasons!

Related Story. Ottawa Senators extend Thomas Chabot. light

Recently extended Chabot and the rest of the Ottawa Senators are preparing for their game against the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night. Following the game, fans can expect the first batch of cuts to be announced. I would expect a large number of players to be cut following the game, as I’d be surprised if the team brought everyone to Vancouver next week. I think DJ Smith wants to have it as close to his NHL roster as possible when the team takes to the ice in Vancouver.

Friday, September 20, 2 pm update: DJ Smith announces that Vitaly Abramov is in concussion protocol. According to Smith, Abramov won’t be out too long and is making good progress. Mikkel Boedker is slated to join the team in Vancouver. Smith also says that they will be making some cuts later today to reduce the size of training camp roster heading into the weekend. Finally, Smith says that he expects the team to be bringing 27 players and three goalies to Vancouver next week.

The Senators will face off against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night and again on Wednesday night. Gotta love those western conference games!

Hang in there fans, training camp will be over by the end of next week and in less than two weeks the Ottawa Senators will take to the ice in an actual meaningful hockey game! In the meantime, the Ottawa Senators were kind enough to tweet out a few pictures from today’s practices.

Next. Josh's Take: Ottawa Senators win against the Leafs. dark

Senators fans, what are your thoughts on the players expected to make the team out of camp? Do you like the direction DJ Smith and the rest of the coaching staff appears to be going with this team? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!