Ottawa Senators at New Jersey Devils on Feb. 1, 2011

Break time is over — back to work.

Ottawa Senators at New Jersey Devils on Feb. 1, 2011


THE STORY:
Break time is over — back to work. The Ottawa Senators kick off their post-all-star schedule with a game in New Jersey against the suddenly surging Devils, who have won six of their last eight games. Suddenly two teams that were expected to be in the thick of the playoff hunt are dueling for a lottery pick in June’s entry draft, with Jersey (35 points) closing in on Ottawa (42).

THE SUBPLOTS: The audition for next year continues for the Senators. Tonight’s match-up should feature forward Colin Greening’s NHL debut and goalie Robin Lehner’s second start in the league. The Senators are desperate for a boost and maybe Lehner can provide it. He is the goalie of record in their last win, a 6-4 shootout with the New York Islanders on Jan. 13. Ottawa has lost six consecutive games since.

THE WILDCARD: Mike Fisher, Senators. The de facto first-line centre has been picking it up of late, and the Senators need him to continue if they hope to bust out of this slump. He has two goals and four points in his last five games. His projected 36 points still puts him well behind last last year’s career high 53-point output, but perhaps a good run here will convince general manager Bryan Murray to keep him around beyond this month’s trade deadline.

THE OPPONENT: It wasn’t long ago that hockey pundits were wondering whether or not Martin Brodeur’s NHL career might be over. Losing 13 out of 14 games will do that to a player. Since then, however, Brodeur has put together five wins in seven games, including a shutout against the offensively-gifted — though Sidney Crosby-less — Pittsburgh Penguins.

THE QUOTE: “If I get the call (tonight), it would be awesome. When I got into goaltending, it was him and (Patrick) Roy who were the figures I started looking at. I wasn’t that much into hockey then, but those were the two guys that kind of showed me. I have a huge respect for that goaltender. He’s one of the goaltenders that made goaltending big for me.” — Lehner on the possibility of facing one of his idols, Martin Brodeur.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, indefinite), C Jason Spezza (shoulder, indefinite), LW Jarkko Ruutu (groin, day-to-day). Devils — D Colin White (lower body, questionable), D Matthew Corrente (shoulder, mid-February), C Jacob Josefson (hand, indefinite), D Matt Taormina (ankle, indefinite), LW Zach Parise (knee, mid-March), D Bryce Salvador (IR, concussion).

THE PREDICTION: I’ve picked the Senators to win in two straight games, and that hasn’t really worked out for me. Guess I’ll give the Devils a shot. If you’re an Ottawa fan hoping for the best draft pick possible, this is a must-lose game for your team. The Senators lead the Devils by seven points in the standings, which means Ottawa still has plenty of ground to make up to get to that No. 1 pick. Sens 1, Devils 3. (See who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one by clicking here).

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