Ottawa Senators at Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 25, 2011

The Ottawa Senators have plenty of reasons to feel good about their game right now.

Ottawa Senators at Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 25, 2011
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)


THE STORY:
The Ottawa Senators have plenty of reasons to feel good about their game right now. They’ve won two straight, knocking off the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets, goalie Craig Anderson is rounding into form and the offence is sizzling. The last piece of the puzzle is the defence, which is allowing an NHL-worst 4.25 goals against per game. If head coach Paul MacLean can sort that out, this team might not be half bad.

THE SUBPLOTS: The Senators face off against the Hurricanes without their captain in the lineup, which is an important loss considering how well Daniel Alfredsson has played the past couple of games. Alfredsson doesn’t have the wheels he once did, but he is a reliable player who can put points up here and there. Fortunately for the Senators, he’s only expected to miss one game with a hip flexor injury. “Wear and tear,” he called it.

THE WILDCARD: Jason Spezza, Senators. The NHL’s second star of the week, thanks to seven points over three games, Spezza is currently ranked third in league scoring behind Toronto’s Phil Kessel and the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin. Spezza, with the help of linemate Milan Michalek and power play accomplice Erik Karlsson, is quickly quieting concern that the Senators wouldn’t be able to score this season. He needs to keep going at that pace.

THE OPPONENT: The Carolina Hurricanes are who we thought they were, a bubble team that will probably be (just) on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around. They may not even get that close if star centre Eric Staal doesn’t get it together soon. Staal has an uncharacteristic four points in eight games, posting an ugly minus-10 rating. Superkid Jeff Skinner leads the team with three goals and nine points.

THE QUOTE: “I think the questions being asked everyday —’Are you staying or are you going back?’ — I think when you’re 18 that really affects you. We’ve had a discussion briefly with him about the different scenarios that might happen, so I think it’s all kind of building up on him now. We want to be fair. Paul (MacLean) loves him in his own end. He thinks he defensively does a good job. But with the puck he hasn’t done as much as we suspect he will in the future.” — Senators general manager Bryan Murray on Mika Zibanejad, who could be playing his last NHL game in a while tonight. If the team doesn’t feel he’s ready for the NHL, he’ll be on a plane back to Sweden shortly for more seasoning.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — D Matt Carkner (knee), C Peter Regin (shoulder) RW Bobby Butler (groin), RW Daniel Alfredsson (hip). Hurricanes — C Zac Dalpe (lower body).

THE PREDICTION: Is the Senators’ modest, two-game winning streak the result of building momentum or just playing lousy teams? When they faced the likes of Colorado, Philadelphia and Detroit, it was plain ugly, while games against Winnipeg and Columbus gave them hope. Fortunately for Ottawa, the Carolina Hurricanes are closer to the Jets and Jackets than the Wings and Flyers. I see Spezza and Co. pulling off a road win here. Senators 5, Hurricanes 4. (SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE BY CLICKING HERE).

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