Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators on Jan. 8, 2011

The Senators don’t have long to stew over last night’s shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

THE STORY: The Senators don’t have long to stew over last night’s shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Waiting back in Ottawa for them was the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that has leapt from near the bottom of the standings last season to the top of the Southeast Division. It has a lot of firepower, which could be a lot for a tired team to contain.

THE SUBPLOTS: Asked earlier this week if Cory Clouston would be the coach of this team at the end of the season Bryan Murray alluded to the fact he would be watching closely over the next three games. Ottawa is now 0-1 in those three games, which doesn’t bode well for the bench boss. Beating the Lightning and Bruins could earn him a little more time to turn things around, however.

THE WILDCARD: Erik Karlsson, Senators. When he’s playing well, he can take over games with his prodigious offensive skill. When he isn’t, losses usually follow. He struggled mightily against the ‘Hawks, turning the puck over at his own blue line and allowing them to take a 2-1 lead midway through the third period. If not for a late goal by Milan Michalek, Ottawa would have left the Windy City with nothing to show for a good effort.

THE OPPONENT: The Senators will be running into an angry group at Scotiabank Place. The Lightning fancy themselves Cup contenders, so an 8-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their last outing probably didn’t sit well with Steven Stamkos and Co. They should be plenty motivated to get things turned around quickly against a struggling team.

THE QUOTE: “We’re in it together. It’s obvious that whoever is in net, we’re going to continue to play well and we’re going to win a lot more hockey games. Whether it’s Rollie, Ellie or myself, it’s important to stay positive and have a good attitude about it and be a good teammate.” ā€” Injured Tampa goaltender Mike Smith, describing the crowded situation in the Lightning’s crease. He, Dwayne Roloson and Dan Ellis will be competing for playing time.

THE SICK BAY: Senators ā€” G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, day-to-day), C Jason Spezza (shoulder, indefinite). Tampa ā€” G Mike Smith (knee), C Mattias Ritola (ear), D Paul Ranger (personal).

THE PREDICTION: I really felt like the Chicago game would be a close one, and it was. This one? Probably not. The Senators arrived home from the Windy City in the early-morning hours, while a talented Tampa team was sitting in the capital waiting for them. You could look at a good outing against the defending Stanley Cup champs as a positive, but Iā€™m not so sure this team will. At the end of the day, Ottawa still lost. Sens 3, Lightning 6.

What do you think? Leave a comment