Ryan looks to break out before Olympic break

The Olympic break can’t come soon enough for Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan.

Ryan looks to break out before Olympic break
Bobby Ryan #6 of the Ottawa Senators passes the puck as Steve Ott #9 of the Buffalo Sabres peels away during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on February 6, 2014 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Olympic break can’t come soon enough for Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan.

While his team has been on an impressive post-Christmas run, climbing back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, Ryan heads into Saturday’s final pre-Olympic game against the Boston Bruins in the midst of a dreadful slump.

And judging by the line combinations at practice Friday, Ryan could also be on what amounts to a third line — playing alongside Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher — against the Bruins.

Ryan, bypassed for selection on the U.S. Olympic team earlier this year, has spent most of the season on a line with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur, who have enjoyed great chemistry together. While Ryan still leads the Senators with 20 goals, he has scored only two goals and five assists in his past 17 games, and at practice Friday, Erik Condra was holding down the right wing spot with Turris and MacArthur.

The normally talkative Ryan wasn’t commenting on any of it, leaving Canadian Tire Centre without talking to the media, before the team boarded its afternoon charter to Boston.

Coach Paul MacLean, however, insists he’s not dismayed by the Ryan slump and suggests the team may not even line up the same way when the puck drops in Boston Saturday.

Some lineup shuffling was necessary because Stephane Da Costa was assigned to Binghamton Friday and heavyweight Matt Kassian is expected to be back in the lineup against Boston.

“We’re not concerned about it at all,” MacLean said. “(Ryan) has to keep working at it. He had five, six, seven or eight (shot) attempts (in Thursday’s 3-2 win over Buffalo). They’re going to go in. It’s a matter of time.”

If the lines do stay the same, Zibanejad will be excited to be back at his more comfortable centre ice position, and at the prospect of playing with a perennial 30-goal scorer.

“He’s a high-end, top scorer, maybe he just needs a greasy one to get him going,” said Zibanejad, whose most consistent offensive success this season came when he was playing centre between Milan Michalek and Conacher. “(Ryan) is getting his chances. The pucks just aren’t going in.”

The Senators, who have posted a record of 11-3-4 since Dec. 28, could possibly be in a wild-card playoff position heading into the Olympic break if they defeat the Bruins and they get some help.

“We’re in the hunt, we’re in the race, but in order to stay in it, we’ve got to keep winning,” MacLean said.

The Senators will catch a break Saturday because Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is already in Sochi, serving as the flag-bearer for his native Slovakia during Olympic opening ceremonies Friday.

Then again, the Senators’ history of disastrous afternoon affairs is also staring them in the face. The Senators are 1-9-1 in early games this season, including a 6-3 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes in a noon start on Jan. 25. In evening games since Dec. 28, the Senators are 11-1-4, with the lone regulation defeat coming to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday.

Craig Anderson, seeking his 20th win of the season, will start in goal for the Senators, and defenceman Chris Phillips will miss his seventh straight game with a lower body injury.

The Senators will head out in a variety of directions immediately following the game. Star defenceman Erik Karlsson, who has scored in consecutive games, will leave to join his Swedish teammates at the Olympics. Michalek, who has suddenly found the scoring range for the Senators with three goals in his past two games, will also be off to Sochi to play for the Czech Republic. Countless others will be headed south.

Ryan, meanwhile, will leave immediately for Europe, hoping to leave some baggage behind in Boston by scoring a goal or two.

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

Tags: , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment