Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators on March 15, 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators on March 15, 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:
The Ottawa Senators continue to play out the string as fans wait to see how high the team will draft this summer. The Senators are currently second-last in the NHL, ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and just one point behind the Colorado Avalanche. They’re also coming off a 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Next up: The Pittsburgh Penguins and a beloved former Senator.

THE SUBPLOTS: Oh, did I say beloved? I meant loathed with the fury of a thousand volcanoes. Yep, Senators fans would probably be happy if they never saw Alex Kovalev again, after he coasted through most of two seasons here. The sting would be much worse if Kovalev was actually playing well for the Penguins, which he isn’t. He has one goal and zero assists in eight games and his ice time has dropped significantly.

THE WILDCARD: Craig Anderson. We’ve seen what happens when he’s at the top of his game, and it is a wonderful thing to behold. We’ve also seen what happens when he isn’t: Pretty much a guaranteed loss for the Senators. Anderson couldn’t really be blamed for the Buffalo game (he got the hook after four goals), but the Senators need him to be outstanding most nights to have a winning chance.

THE OPPONENT: No Crosby, no Malkin, no problem. The Penguins are 4-1-2 in their last seven after slumping a little in February, which is helping keep them in the upper half of the Eastern Conference’s playoff seeding. If they can lock down home ice in the first round of the postseason and somehow get Crosby back in time, they’ll be a force. If not, well, it might be a short spring.

THE QUOTE: “I have no clue. I’m not thinking too far ahead as far as time frame. I just want to get better. This is part of the way to do that, I’m just taking that step and seeing how it goes.” — Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, on when he could return to the lineup. Crosby skated for the first time yesterday since suffering a concussion in a Jan. 5 game.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, indefinite), RW Daniel Alfredsson (back, indefinite), C/W Peter Regin (shoulder, out for season), LW Milan Michalek (lower body, indefinite), D Matt Carkner (knee, 2-4 weeks). Penguins — C Sidney Crosby (concussion, indefinite), C Evgeni Malkin (knee, out for season), C Mike Comrie (lower body, indefinite), RW Aaron Asham (concussion, indefinite), LW Eric Tangradi (concussion, indefinite), D Brooks Orpik (finger, late March), D Matt Niskanen (illness, questionable).

THE PREDICTION: Even without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins remain one of the better teams in the East. Plus, we all know how much Alex Kovalev likes to stick it to his former teams. Senators 2, Penguins 3. (SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE)

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