THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators have tamed the disquiet around them by winning two games in a row, but can they keep it going against a legitimate Stanley Cup contender? The Bruins fell off the radar with a disappointing season a years ago, but this group has everything: Several lines that can score, a good defensive system and two goaltenders who could challenge for the Vezina Trophy. This is a huge test for Ottawa.
THE SUBPLOTS: The Senators have finally found some line combinations that are working, but will have to re-jig with Jason Spezza likely coming back. The trio of Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Milan Michalek was spectacular against the Florida Panthers on Thursday, so will coach Cory Clouston take a gamble and put two puck-holders in Spezza and Alex Kovalev together?
THE WILDCARD: Tim Thomas, Bruins. If he’s on, the Senators don’t have a hope. It was a little strange to see a Vezina winner relegated to backup duty just months after picking up the honour, but so it was with Thomas last season. Some questioned whether or not Father Time was catching up with the netminder, but he’s having none of that this season. How does 5-0-0 with a .981 save percentage sound?
THE OPPONENT: The Bruins aren’t just winning — they’re winning big. They’ve come out on top in five of six after dropping the opener to the Phoenix Coyotes overseas, and the margin of victory has been at least two goals in all but one of those victories. This team surprised many by starting slow last season and climbing into the No. 6 playoff seed last spring, but there will be no sneaking up on opponents this campaign, however. They are elite.
THE QUOTE: “Timmy Thomas seems like he’s really back in form and they’re a big physical team,” Spezza said after practice. “They’ve got (former Senator Zdeno Chara) and some good forward lines and they’re definitely a little bit of a measuring stick now for the East.” — Senators centre Jason Spezza, sizing up his team’s Saturday night opponent.
THE SICK BAY: Senators — D Filip Kuba (broken leg, three weeks), G Pascal Leclaire (groin, indefinite), C Jason Spezza (groin, questionable). Bruins — W Marco Sturm (right knee, indefinite), C Marc Savard (concussion, indefinite), D Johnny Boychuk (forearm, indefinite).
THE PREDICTION: One of my favourite things in the world is to listen to Tim Thomas explain why he plays so well in Ottawa. One year, it’s the lighting at Scotiabank Place. The next, it’s the crisp Canadian air outside his hotel. Whatever the reason, he’s dominant here and Claude Julien would be foolish not to start him. I think he’ll play, and he’ll win. Senators 1, Bruins 4. See who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one.