Yes, it’s the first time the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens have met since last spring’s playoff series, but let’s not get too carried away thinking Wednesday’s exhibition game between the clubs is going to carry extra intensity because of the rivalry.
First off, the Canadiens are sending a rather pedestrian lineup, featuring only 10 veteran players. Peter Budaj is also expected to play the entire game in the Canadiens net.
Meanwhile, the Senators are taking an extremely cautious approach with their own bumps and bruises, opting not to play goaltender Craig Anderson or number one centre Jason Spezza. Nathan Lawson is expected to tend the net for the Senators, while Stephane Da Costa has inherited the choice assignment of playing centre between Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan.
Senators coach Paul MacLean said that Spezza and Anderson are suffering “general training camp issues and we’re just making sure we’re managing it.”
Spezza had back surgery and played in only five games last season and his absence Wednesday raises alarm bells that not all is well. Whatever is ailing Spezza — Spezza insists it’s not his back – it wasn’t enough to keep him from taking part in practice with the club’s non-game day players Wednesday morning.
“Could he play? Yes,” said MacLean.
Anderson also skated with the non-game day group, but insists his ailment is unrelated to last season’s ankle injury.
“You guys can stop reporting about my ankle,” he said after practice Wednesday.
“It’s just small soreness and we’re just trying to be smart about it,” the coach said. “We’ve got back to back games (the clubs will play again Thursday at Montreal’s Bell Centre) and he has an opportunity to play (Thursday) and then another game (Sunday against the New York Islanders).”
Other combinations to look forward to Wednesday night include:
–Cory Conacher receving another audition on right wing with left winger Clarke MacArthur and centre Kyle Turris
–Mika Zibanejed centering a unit with Colin Greening on his left and Erik Condra on the right side
–Centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau figures to get a little extra room to move, with wingers Matt Kassian and Chris Neil serving as his bookends on another line
–The defence pairing of Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot will be back together, while Chris Phillips and Joe Corvo will be paired together in what could be a preview of a regular season blueline partnership.