THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators are revealing themselves as a very streaky team this season. They went 1-5 off the start, then rattled off six straight wins, only to lose the next five overall. Now they’ve won two straight again and are looking to make it three against a young Oilers team that has been great at home this season (6-1-1). Can they keep it rolling against the kids and the Hall?
THE SUBPLOTS: While the Senators keep ramblin’ across the west, there’s trouble brewing with the farm club. Russian winger Nikita Filatov is beoing courted by the KHL after failing to land a roster spot in the NHL, putting Ottawa’s reclamation project in jeopardy. Will Filatov get another chance to stick with the big club before he heads home for good?
THE WILDCARD: Bobby Butler, Senators. Good of him to show up after all this time. Butler scored twice in the Senators’ 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames, showing flashes of the offensive talent that convinced Senators GM Bryan Murray that he was worth signing to a one-way NHL contract. To be fair, Butler hasn’t had much of an opportunity to shine on the fourth line. If he can keep putting the puck in the net, he won’t be there long.
THE OPPONENT: The Oilers’ young guns were expected to fire it up this season and perhaps hide some of the defensive shortcomings this team displayed last season. Well, the opposite has happened. Edmonton is the fifth-lowest scoring team in the league, while goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (who actually spent time in jail this summer for a DUI conviction) is off to a scorching start (7-2-2, 1.52, .945).
THE QUOTE: “Basically, what I told him, ‘We’re going on a road trip for two weeks. ‘Go down and play in Binghamton, and play hard. If we feel, at the end of our trip, that we’d like to give an opportunity to you again — Paul has said we’d be moving you up and down a few times – if you’re playing well, we will give you an opportunity to again show your wares here. And then, by the end of November, if you’re not in the NHL, I will sit down and talk with you again.’” — Murray on the Filatov situation.
THE SICK BAY: Senators — D Matt Carkner (knee), C Peter Regin (shoulder), RW Chris Neil (ankle). Oilers — D Ryan Whitney (knee), LW Darcy Hordichuk (knee), D Taylor Fedun (broken femur).
THE PREDICTION: The Oilers have cooled a little since the beginning of the season, while it appears the Senators are heating up a bit. Still, you have to think the Senators will have a hiccup on this road trip and I think it starts tonight against the NHL’s third-best defence. Senators 2, Oilers 3. (CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE).