THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators looked like they might have sorted out some of the poor decision-making and inconsistency that comes with a rebuilding team earlier this season, but it has all come flooding back the past couple of games. Thursday night’s 5-4 defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Devils was especially demoralizing, as the most recent blown lead included giving up two shorthanded goals. Ugly.
THE SUBPLOTS: Will Senators coach Paul MacLean mix things up with a lineup change, hoping to spur the team back to victory? Everyone is waiting to see whether or not the team will give Nikita Filatov a fair shot to succeed here, or send him packing to Russia sooner, rather than later. This might be a good spot to get him back in the lineup.
THE WILDCARD: Craig Anderson, Senators. The Senators got a look at what life would be like without their No. 1 goaltender Thursday night. Alex Auld didn’t look sharp at all during the Senators’ collapse, and may as well have just laid down in the crease during the shootout. If the Senators are going to beat the Canucks tonight, they need Craig Anderson, and they need him to be stellar.
THE OPPONENT: Vancouver backup goalie Roberto Luongo will get the start against the Senators tonight and…wait, what? Okay, maybe it isn’t fair to call him the backup just yet, but it is fair to say Cory Schneider has been the better of the two this season (7-4, .934, 2.02). The Canucks have an embarrassment of riches in goal, really. Luongo will pick it up again soon and Vancouver will once again have two legit No. 1′s.
THE QUOTE: “The guys that turned over, the mistakes we made weren’t just the young guys, so we can’t just paint it with that broad brush. I think it’s the whole team. The whole team has to go through the learning process of having a lead and learning how to bring it home.” — Senators coach, passing the blame around for the Senators’ recent inconsistent play.
THE SICK BAY: Senators — (C) P. Regin (shoulder), Filip Kuba (upper body). Canucks — (LW) D. Booth (knee), (LW) C. Higgins (infection), (C) A. Ebbett (foot), (RW) B. Bitz (groin).
THE PREDICTION: The Senators are clearly not at the top of their game after blowing third-period leads the last past two games, so I can’t really take them over the rapidly-heating Canucks. After about four years of covering hockey, I’m going to fall into cliche mode here: Ottawa needs to show it can play a full 60. Until then…Senators 2, Canucks 5 (TO SEE WHO THE REST OF OUR PREDICTION PANEL LIKES IN THIS ONE, CLICK HERE).