Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: Ubergate is in the past, let’s play hockey
The Senators return to Tampa for their second meeting in less than a week, hoping to put controversy behind them.
Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME #17
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, CityTV
Opponent SBNation Site: Silver Seven Suns
It certainly has been a, uh, tumultuous week for the Ottawa Senators. It was almost as if their demoralizing loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday was a hint of things to come (although I’m sure no one expected what actually ended up happening).
All off-ice incidents aside, they defeated the New Jersey Devils 8-3 on Tuesday before hosting the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. The Senators got off to a horrible start, falling into a 3-0 hole early. Although they made a good go of it at the end, they were unable to complete the comeback, falling to Vegas 5-3.
It wasn’t all doom-and-gloom, however, as Thomas Chabot’s two points gave him the NHL lead in points among defensemen (22 points in 16 games). Aside from the small hiccup of being inside the Uber that fateful October night, he’s had a tremendous season for Ottawa and been one of the team’s only bright spots.
The Lightning continued to roll this week, adding two more wins against the Edmonton Oilers and (Metropolitan-leading) New York Islanders. They’re on a four-game winning streak and cruise into tonight’s game looking to extend it. Mathieu Joseph potted his second NHL goal against the Isles, and the dynamic duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov finally came alive offensively this week.
Tampa Bay sent Cameron Gaunce down to the Syracuse Crunch on Friday. That’s because Victor Hedman is heathy enough to return. The Lightning’s best defenseman has missed the last 7 games with a lower body injury. So although Slater Koekkoek has impressed in Hedman’s absence, it probably means the blueline reverts to the original pairs. Sorry, Slater — you were really, really great in the last week, but injuries heal. It’s bad news for Koekkoek, but welcome news for the struggling Lightning powerplay, which went 0-for-4 against the Islanders.
New-father Ondrej Palat, meanwhile, will be out an additional four weeks, the team announced on Thursday. He won’t require surgery, but wasn’t healing as quickly as the team had originally hoped.
The Senators’ numbers somehow dropped even more significantly in the two games they had since their last game against the Lightning. Along with their league-worst penalty kill (which has been made abundantly clear several times this week), their possession has dropped to league-worst as well. They’re also allowing over four goals and close to 40 shots a game, which is brutal.
Fortunately for the Lightning, this is the perfect recipe to wake up their dormant powerplay. Their lacklustre performance on the man-advantage Thursday night dropped their powerplay to 12th overall, but it should have no problems breaking through Saturday against the league’s worst penalty kill.
The Senators opted to dress 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on Thursday against Vegas. I’m not quite sure this worked out in their favour, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them use this strategy against Tampa Bay. They’ll need as many defenders as they can to stop the speedy Lightning attack. The Senators have several injuries to key forwards, as well, so this strategy actually makes a lot of sense for them. Then again, Ottawa lost when swapping out a forward for an extra defenseman, so Guy Boucher may just decide to go back to what worked a little better.
This is the Lightning’s last game at home before embarking on a four-game road trip that will take them away from Amalie Arena for ten days. It would be great to end the homestand on a high note and leave Tampa with their heads held high.
Tampa Bay Lightning
J.T. Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Injured: Ondrej Palat
Scratched: Danick Martel
Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev
Scratched: Slater Koekkoek
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Mark Stone
Brady Tkachuk - Chris Tierney - Bobby Ryan
Nick Paul - Colin White - Mikkel Boedker
Magnus Paajarvi - Tom Pyatt
Injured: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Marian Gaborik, Zack Smith
Scratched: Max McCormick, Erik Burgdoerfer
Thomas Chabot - Dylan DeMelo
Maxime Lajoie - Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki - Chris Wideman