Ottawa Senators at Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 7, 2011

The Ottawa Senators’ tough season is likely to get tougher tonight as they face off against the powerhouse Vancouver Canucks.

Ottawa Senators at Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 7, 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’ tough season is likely to get tougher tonight as they face off against the powerhouse Vancouver Canucks. It’s the second of four consecutive games on the road, the first of which they dropped to the lowly New York Islanders. Actually, “lowly” is an appropriate term to describe the Senators as well, as they sink towards the bottom of the standings.

THE SUBPLOTS: How low can they go? With the New Jersey Devils’ win over Montreal last night, they slipped past the Senators into 13th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Ottawa is just one point ahead of the Isles and four ahead of the Edmonton Oilers overall, which means they have a serious shot at the No. 1 pick in June’s entry draft.

THE WILDCARD: Robin Lehner. The Senators’ rookie netminder probably deserved an express pass to Binghamton after his ridiculous penalty for knocking over New York netminder Kevin Poulin after the second period ended cost his team two points a couple nights ago. Brian Elliott is pretty much unplayable right now, however, so Lehner will probably be rewarded with the start against Vancouver.

THE OPPONENT: How good are the Canucks? Well, we always talk about how tough the Western Conference is, and they lead it by an impressive nine points over the Detroit Red Wings. They’re also ahead in the President’s Trophy race, two points up on the Philadelphia Flyers. The really scary part is how good they are on both sides of the puck: Vancouver is second in the NHL in goals per game (3.34) and third in goals against per game (2.26).

THE QUOTE: “This is what, 17, 18 years I’ve been coaching, and I’ve never seen anything like this. All I can do is keep trying to motivate the guys, give them a reason to want to come to the practice, to want to put the jersey on and work hard…for sure it’s the toughest time of my coaching career, but I’m trying to use it as a springboard to help myself, to help the team, and to eventually get us out of — I don’t want to say mess — but the situation we’re in right now.” — Coach Cory Clouston on the challenge he faces every day.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, indefinite), LW Jarkko Ruutu (groin, probable), D Matt Carkner (lower body, doubtful). Canucks — D Andrew Alberts (shoulder, questionable), D Alex Edler (back, indefinite), C Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder, mid-February), C Rick Rypien (personal, indefinite).

THE PREDICTION: If the Senators can’t beat the New York Islanders, what hope do they have against the Canucks? Vancouver has blazing fast forwards, a strong defence corps and an all-world goaltender. They have no real weaknesses and are the runaway Stanley Cup favourite. They’d be a handful for any team, let alone one struggling as mightily as the Senators are. Sens 0, ‘Nucks 4. (See who the rest of our prediction panel likes in this one).

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