THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators take on the Oilers in the Basement Bowl, where the loser is really the winner. If the Senators drop this contest, they’ll also drop to 30th place in the NHL standings. That sad spot, of course, would give them the best shot at landing the first overall pick in the entry draft this summer and a player who could help speed along the rebuilding process.
THE SUBPLOTS: This will be the Senators’ first game After Fisher, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. You have to think most of the players’ minds aren’t on hockey, but on whether or not they’ll be the next ones out the door. If Bryan Murray could trade away one of the team’s better players — one with celebrity intangibles and a sparkling record of public service — nobody is safe. Well, except Erik Karlsson and Daniel Alfredsson.
THE WILDCARD: Jason Spezza, Senators. With the team down one veteran centre, there will be more pressure (and tight checking) on Ottawa’s No. 1 guy. Spezza has two points in three games since returning from a lengthy absence due a to shoulder separation, and should improve with every game as he gets his legs back. Playing against the second-worst defensive team in the league could be a nice kick-start for him.
THE OPPONENT: It’s the only squad still playing worse than the Senators, but not by much. The Oilers are dead last in the NHL and, in addition to the aforementioned poor defence, they have the 28th-ranked offence as well (Ottawa is 29th). They’re also last on the power play and the penalty kill. If there’s one area where this team is very strong, however, it’s…ah, who are we kidding?
THE QUOTE: “Those things are out of your control. The older I’ve gotten, the more years I’ve played, I’ve realized that. Maybe my first or second year I would have been more worried about being traded or not being here, but the fact is I have no control over it. The only thing I have any control over is how I play. If Bryan feels the best move for the organization is to move me, then he’s going to move me.” — Chris Kelly, another veteran who could be on the way out.
THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, indefinite), RW Daniel Alfredsson (back, indefinite), C Jesse Winchester (knee, indefinite). Oilers — LW Ryan Jones (questionable, undisclosed), C Shawn Horcoff (questionable, illness), D Ryan Whitney (ankle, indefinite).
THE PREDICTION: I wasn’t planning on taking the Senators before they shipped their No. 2 centre to Nashville. This is the fourth game of a four-game road trip, so they can’t be feeling all that energetic either. Sens 2, Oil 3. (Click here to see who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one)