Afternoon games certainly haven’t been kind to the Ottawa Senators so far this season but they’ll be hoping for a different result as they play a crucial game against Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes.
It should go without saying at this point but there will be a huge two points on the line today in Raleigh. Like many of the teams pushing for playoff spots, the Hurricanes have been on a heck of a run the last little while and have played their way back into the Eastern Conference playoffs picture. With 53 points, the Canes sit just a single point behind the Senators and have played one less game. They are coming off back to back wins over the Flyers and Sabres that allowed them to keep pace with the rest of the chase pack in the East.
Much has been made about this road trip for the Senators as it includes a number of teams they are battling for playoff positioning. After the matinee in Carolina, the Senators travel to Columbus to take on one of the hottest teams in the NHL in the Blue Jackets. As good as the Sens have played of late (6-1-3 in their last ten), there really isn’t any room for error. Everyone around them is playing well making each game that much more important.
After a couple games as a healthy scratch, Marc Methot returns to the Ottawa blueline. His benching had nothing to do with his play but you would expect that Methot comes out motivated and eager to make a good impression. With Methot returning, Patrick Wiercioch returns to the pressbox.
The pairings at yesterday’s practice were a little strange with Karlsson and Ceci both taking the day off. You would assume that Methot plays with Gryba this afternoon but the two weren’t paired together during yesterday’s skate. It could mean Methot is paired with Karlsson to start this afternoon. We shall see. MacLean is expected to go with the same forward combinations as he finished the game with in Tampa Bay. Here’s how they are expected to line up.
Robin Lehner gets the start in the Ottawa goal. Puck drop is scheduled for just after 12:00 PM.