Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 8, 2011

If Friday night’s mistake-filled outing against the Detroit Red Wings is any indication, this could be a long season for the Ottawa Senators. Fortunately, they have an opportunity to get right back on the horse tonight against the lower-tier Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 8, 2011
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators handles the puck 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:
If Friday night’s mistake-filled outing against the Detroit Red Wings is any indication, this could be a long season for the Ottawa Senators. Fortunately, they have an opportunity to get right back on the horse tonight against the lower-tier Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto, meanwhile, opened its season on Thursday with a 2-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

THE SUBPLOTS: If the Senators are to have any hope of making the playoffs this season, they’re probably going to have to win their season series with the Leafs. The scheduling gods didn’t have much mercy on that front — these two teams play six times this season, and each time, Ottawa will be on the tail end of a back-to-back situation.

THE WILDCARD: Craig Anderson. Ottawa’s netminder will have to be the hero most nights this season and he has a history of playing well against the Leafs. Anderson turned aside 47 Toronto shots for a shutout win in his first game as a Senator after being acquired in a trade for Brian Elliott last February.

THE OPPONENT: The Battle of Ontario is still flat-lining, as the Senators are widely expected to finish dead last in the conference (if not the league), while the Leafs still have a lot of work to do to climb into the playoff picture. They’ll need help too — of the teams that made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference last season, only the Canadiens appear vulnerable to a letdown. Game one was a good start for T.O., though.

THE QUOTE: “It just looked like it always did from my bench, the same as it did from when I was on their bench. They were a little quicker on the transition game and in the second period, they did a good job of catching us from behind and we were just a little bit slow.” — Senators coach Paul MacLean, a former Detroit assistant, assessing his current squad’s performance Friday night.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — D Matt Carkner (knee), Peter Regin (shoulder), C Jesse Winchester (shoulder). Leafs — C Tim Connolly (upper body), C Nazem Kadri (knee).

THE PREDICTION: There already appear to be many frustrated Senators fans after Game 1, but there are probably going to be many nights like Friday in Detroit this season. The learning curve gets a little less harsh in this game, but I think the end result will be the same. Senators 1, Leafs 2. (See who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one by clicking here).

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