THE STORY: If the Ottawa Senators aren’t careful, a six-game win streak could soon turn into a lengthy losing streak. After dropping a 5-3 decision to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, the Senators play four tough games over the next eight days. It starts tonight at Scotiabank Place against the Montreal Canadiens, who are a riding a three-game hot streak of their own.
THE SUBPLOTS: We found out yesterday what the Senators already knew — things aren’t looking good for Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. He told reporters yesterday that he can’t even play with his kids without getting dizzy, which doesn’t bode well for a quick recovery. Now the team must carry on without its heart, soul and the only proven top-six forward who was skating on their second line. How will that affect the offence, short and long-term?
THE WILDCARD: Bobby Butler, Nikita Filatov and Kaspars Daugavins. These are the three men who have a chance to prove they belong on one of the Senators’ first two lines. Each has shuffled in and out of the lineup, with only Daugavins (currently in Binghamton) impressing the coaching staff with his work ethic here. The Senators needs one to step up and prove he can score consistently at this level. First up is Butler.
THE OPPONENT: What has been the key to the Canadiens’ turnaround? As usual, the goalie. When Carey Price heats up, so does his team, and the Habs’ netminder is scorching right now. Price’s save percentage has hovered around the .900 for most of the season, but in the last three games there has been a significant bump: .955, .967, .929. The Senators might be able to hop out to an early lead if they push the pace against a Montreal team shaking off the rust from almost a full week off. After that, it’ll probably be a stingy night.
THE QUOTE: “It’s not only the skill set, but his leadership in the room, getting the team ready to play and handling momentum swings during the game. He has the ability to do things on the ice, do things right, and that’s the biggest part of him. He’s a voice in the room that can settle things down when momentum is going the other way.” — Senators coach Paul MacLean on the other ways losing Alfredsson affects the team.
THE SICK BAY: Senators — D Matt Carkner (knee), C Peter Regin (shoulder), RW Daniel Alfredsson (head). Canadiens — D Andrei Markov (knee), C Scott Gomez (upper body), D Chris Campoli (lower body).
THE PREDICTION: The Senators have a tough week coming up, one that I think will probably bring them back to earth. After facing the Habs, they take on the Sabres, Rangers and Sabres again. Maybe they’ll surprise me by stringing together a few more wins, but I think they’re way overdue for a significant setback. You can’t play as loose defensively as they do and keep getting away with it. (SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE HERE).