Game day preview: Panthers at Senators

Whatever momentum the Senators were looking to carry over their win on Monday ended in last night’s disastrous 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils that necessitated a closed-door meeting immediately following the game.

Game day preview: Panthers at Senators
Scottie Upshall #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his second period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the BB&T Center on November 30, 2013 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Florida Panthers (13-17-5)
@
Ottawa Senators (14-16-6)
7:30pm ET
TV: Sportsnet East

Background…

Whatever momentum the Senators were looking to carry over their win on Monday ended in last night’s disastrous 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils that necessitated a closed-door meeting immediately following the game.

The Senators return home to face a rested Florida Panthers team that has already beaten the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in its last two games. And like Ottawa tonight, the Canadiens and Maple Leafs had played the night before facing the Panthers.

Ottawa and Florida have already faced each other twice this season. The Sens picked up wins in both games, outscoring the Panthers by an aggregate score of seven to four. Clarke MacArthur has done most of the damage in these games for the Sens, tallying one goal and three points in these two games. Conversely, Brian Campbell has one goal and two points to pace the Panthers.

Storylines…

The Panthers have actually been playing some inspired hockey under new head Peter Horacek. Since taking over as the head coach for the November 9th game, which coincidentally happened to be against the Sens, the Panthers have gone 10-8-1.

Although their specialty teams could be more efficient – their power play is operating at an 11.5-percent success rate and their penalty kill at a 70.7-percent success rate – the secret to the Panthers’ success under Horacek is their exponentially improved play at even strength.

Via ExtraSkater.com, here is a look at the Panthers’ Cumulative Five-on-Five Close Fenwick For:

The Florida Panthers' Close Fenwick For %

This graph simply represents a game-by-game assessment of how the Florida Panthers’ puck possession rate, in this case Fenwick For, has evolved. As you can see by the indicated moment above, from the moment that Horacek was hired, the Panthers have essentially have directed a higher rate of shots (missed shots + shots on goal) at the opposition’s net when the score is close (defined by a one goal or less differential in the first two periods and tied in the third period and overtime).

Florida will need to rely on this improved five-on-five play to have any chance of winning in Ottawa. In fact, they have dropped seven consecutive games in the nation’s capital. They have not won here since they shutout out the Sens 3-0 on Jan. 9, 2010. Nathan Horton and Rostislav Olesz (two) scored the goals for Florida, and Tomas Vokoun made 24 saves for the win.

The Sens will not have to face their nemesis, Tim Thomas, in this one. He was placed on the injured reserve last week with a lower body injury. In his place, expect Scott Clemmensen to start for the Panthers. He has won his last three starts since filling in for Thomas and has only allowed four goals during this time. The last time that he has faced Ottawa was April 7, 2013 – a 2-1 win in which he stopped 40 of 41 shots.

After dropping last night’s game, expect some lineup for the Senators. Defenceman Marc Methot should draw back into the lineup after being scratched for a fourth consecutive game because of the flu. Thanks to the scheduling and his track record of success versus Florida, expect Craig Anderson to get the start for Ottawa. He has a career record of 10-1-1, a goals against average of 1.91 and a save percentage of .938 in 13 games versus the Panthers.

Interesting Stat #1

The Panthers have gone seven consecutive games without scoring a power play goal. They are zero for seventeen during this stretch.

Interesting Stat #2

The Senators have played back-to-back games eight times this season and have an 0-4-4 record in the second game of these back-to-backs.

Interesting Stat #3

All-Time Goalie Leaders Win Percentage Versus the Ottawa Senators:

Player Record Win %
1 Dominik Hasek 24-9-5-0 .697
2 Carey Price 14-6-0-3 .674
3 Tim Thomas 23-11-0-2 .667
4 Mike Richter 15-8-2-0 .640
5 Patrick Roy 13-7-2-1 .636

*I used a 20 games started against the Senators criteria to establish this list
**In the record column, the third number represents the number of ties and the fourth represents the number of overtime/shootout losses

Interesting Stat #4

Since being acquired in a trade in which the Panthers moved Kris Versteeg for defenceman Dylan Olsen (note: Florida also retained some of Versteeg’s salary in the deal), Olsen has gone on to tally three goals and five assists in 11 games. Olsen, a first round pick (28th overall) in 2009, has never had scored more than four goals in any of his years as a professional, so expect his current production rates to normalize. His current 16.7-percent shooting percentage should regress to his career average quickly.

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