Thursday, November 13, 2008

Game day: Sens v Isles

The Senators hope to rebound from their... umm... un-pretty loss to the Montreal Canadiens tonight when they begin a home-and-home series at Scotiabank Place against the Islanders. It's on Sportsnet locally, and the TEAM 1200.

The only roster change is Ryan Shannon joining the big team after Jarkko Ruutu was suspended, and reports are that Shannon will play alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley on the top line (was I the first to predict this?). I think it's a good move; you've got to put players, especially younger ones, in situations where they will fit and where they can excel, and Shannon is definitely a scorer. It also means the line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jesse Winchester, and Mike Fisher, which has been playing well, is preserved. That leaves, in all likelihood, Chris Kelly centring Antoine Vermette and Nick Foligno on the third line, which has the potential to be dynamic and defensively responsible, and a fourth line of Dean McAmmond and Shean Donovan with Chris Neil (although Foligno and Neil might be swapped).

Alex Auld is in nets, as it should be. Martin Gerber will get his chances later on, but there's no sense screwing with goaltending when there are other problems which are more pressing.

Keep an eye on the powerplay tonight. I have a feeling that Shannon will be on the second unit, at least, but there are more problems with that line--and especially with the defensive pairing of Chris Phillips and Christoph Schubert, who don't look at all comfortable together on the point. With a much weaker penalty-killing unit on Long Island, though, the Sens might have a bit more luck. Just watch out for Dick Park, who is awesome.

It should be interesting to watch the game tonight. Hard work wasn't the issue against Montreal, the players just weren't on the same page. With a bit more intensity (the kind we heard about in practice yesterday) as well as some more systemic play and solid defence, there's no reason Ottawa can't manhandle New York (who are the worst team in team in the league, statistically speaking, even if they're only four points behind Ottawa).

And, just to update any interested parties on Binghamton, captain Denis Hamel and enforcer Jeremy Yablonski should return to the lineup, according to Bingo blogger Michael Sharp. So, although they'll miss Shannon's offence, they'll get a boost from a couple of veterans.
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