The intrigue about who might be injured and not ready to play in Game 7 continues to grow.
Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner didn’t practice for the Senators, receiving what coach Paul MacLean described as “maintenance days.”
Konopka, however, was walking gingerly out of Scotiabank Place before leaving for the team’s charter flight.
Konopka has been a welcome surprise for the Senators during the playoffs, posting a 69.7 per cent faceoff winning percentage, tops in the NHL, and he played 15:02 in Game 6.
If Konopka can’t play, Kaspars Daugavins could take his spot on the roster, but Daugavins is not a centre and the Senators would be forced to use someone other than Jason Spezza to take key faceoffs, especially in the defensive zone.
At practice on Wednesday, Binghamton call-up Mark Borowiecki took Carkner’s spot. Borowiecki also made the trip to New York and if Carkner can’t play, it’s believed the newcomer would get the nod over Matt Gilroy due to his physical play.
“The approach is to prepare yourself and be a good pro, because you never know,” said Borowiecki, who grew up in Kanata. “It’s pretty cool. It’s what every hockey player strives for, to play in a situation like that. Regardless of whether I’m in or not, I’m going to enjoy it and go in there prepared.”
Borowiecki played two games with the Senators during the regular season.
Meanwhile, in New York, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan also didn’t skate.
It’s believed that Callahan injured a finger while blocking a Chris Phillips shot during Game 6 on Monday.
The loss of Callahan would be an enormous blow to the Rangers, who are limited offensively.
It’s possible that Callahan could play with a bandaged finger, but his ability to shoot could be limited.
DIFFERING OPINIONS ON NEIL
In New York, Chris Neil’s status is akin to that of a rat living in the subway system, a nuisance who must be exterminated before he causes even bigger damage. The things Neil will hear Thursday at Madison Square Garden can’t be repeated here.
To Ottawa fans, Chris Neil is generally being hailed as a hero, seen as playing the role of agitator to perfection, for knocking Brian Boyle out of the series, for scoring twice, including the overtime winner in Game 2, and for keeping Rangers players at attention at all times, unsure of what’s next.
“He’s been incredible, really,” said Daniel Alfredsson. “He has done everything and more you could ask of him. He has contributed offensively, he has been a pest. He has been hard on the forecheck. He has fought. He has done everything. He has been a big, big player for us so far. The game suits his style of play, but what also makes him effective is his ability to skate, to get up and down the ice and he’s got good hands around the net.”
If, as expected, Game 7 is tight checking with little room to move, Neil could once again be a major factor. He might think about wearing earplugs, though.
MICHALEK BREATHES EASY
Milan Michalek insists he doesn’t know what all the fuss was about.
After escaping with a warning, but no punishment from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan in Skate gate – did he intentionally kick the Rangers’ Dan Girardi during a last-minute pile-up in the Rangers crease? – Michalek will be in the Senators lineup tonight for Game 7.
“I wasn’t worried about it,” said Michalek. “I was on the bottom of the pile and I just wanted to get out of it and I just pushed him. I didn’t want to hurt anybody and nothing happened.”
MACLEAN PLAYING A GAME OF STONE, PAPER, SILFVERS?
In addition to the uncertainty surrounding Konopka and Carkner, the Senators also have a decision to make between Mark Stone, Jakob Silfverberg and possibly, Bobby Butler. Stone picked up an assist on Jason Spezza’s game opening goal in Game 5, but sat in favour of Silfverberg in Game 6.
“It’s not going to go down to the wire, but we still have some discussions to go through,” said MacLean, who will talk with his assistant coaches and GM Bryan Murray before making the final call. “Ultimately, I will have to make the final decision on who gives us the best chance to win the game.”
Silfverberg says he had fun in his first game, but clearly wasn’t satisfied with having tasted defeat.
“I thought I had energy throughout the game,” he said. “It was not my best game, but I enjoyed it, learned a lot from it and gained a lot of of experience from it. For sure, I would like to play, by you never know.”
QUOTE DE JOUR
During the 1980′s, Paul MacLean’s Winnipeg Jets were matched up against the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers year after year in the playoffs. Asked if he ever played in a Game 7, MacLean said, “we were lucky to get to four. In the seven years we were there, I think it was 28 games we played against Edmonton. It was four (straight) every time for them.”