Florida Panthers at Ottawa Senators on Feb. 23, 2011

It’s been almost two months since the Ottawa Senators have won a home game.

Florida Panthers at Ottawa Senators on Feb. 23, 2011


THE STORY:
It’s been almost two months since the Ottawa Senators have won a home game. The last victory at Scotiabank Place came on Boxing Day against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the team has been in a death spiral ever since. It is coming off a road win against the rival Maple Leafs, however, so it should have a little more confidence than usual.

THE SUBPLOTS: To be more specific, the Senators should derive some confidence from the performance of their new netminder. Craig Anderson stopped 47 shots in regulation and three more in the shootout to lead his team to a 1-0 shutout against the Maple Leafs, which gave fans hope that there will be fewer blowouts down the stretch. Anderson finally gives the Senators a chance to win a few games here and there.

THE WILDCARD: Jason Spezza, Senators. Anderson can’t get a shutout every game, so the Senators will need to start putting up some bigger numbers on the scoreboard. Responsibility for that falls to Spezza, who was the shootout hero Saturday night. His line, with Bobby Butler and Milan Michalek, has been the best of the bunch lately.

THE OPPONENT: Like the Senators, the Florida Panthers are pretty much playing out the string. They trail the eighth and final playoff spot by eight points, which is actually a massive deficit at this point in the season. They’ve also been struggling, dropping eight of their last 11 games. This game is the third of a four game road trip, with Florida splitting the first two. They’re coming off a loss to the New York Islanders.

THE QUOTE: “What can you do? It sucks, but I can’t change it. I’ve got to live with it. “You’ve just got to keep on going forward and pick up as many things as you can, gain as much experience as you can. And I think I’ve gained a lot since I’ve come here. You learn something every day.” — Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson on his league-worst minus-28 rating.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, indefinite), RW Daniel Alfredsson (back, indefinite), C Jesse Winchester (knee, indefinite), D Matt Carkner (lower body, questionable). D Chris Campoli (lower body, doubtful), D Sergei Gonchar (lower body, doubtful), W Peter Regin (shoulder, indefinite). Panthers — RW Byron Bitz (groin, indefinite), D Dmitry Kulikov (ankle, late Feb.), RW Evgeny Dadonov (finger, indefinite), C Shawn Matthias (ankle, late March).

THE PREDICTION: While I don’t think the Senators will win many more games down the stretch, they should be competitive in this one. The Panthers aren’t exactly the class of the Eastern Conference and Craig Anderson should be motivated against his former team. At least these games are a little more difficult to predict now! (Click here to see who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one).

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