A quick glance at the Eastern Conference standings this morning and you will see exactly why tonight's match up between the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators is so important.
The Sens and Devils currently sit tied at 43 points a piece, with the Devils holding down 6th in the East while the Sens sit 8th. The Devils have two games in hand on the Senators.
The margin for error in the Eastern Conference is so small right now which makes games like this one all the more important. Jersey has played some quality hockey of late, winning back to back games and posting an impressive 7-3-0 record in their last ten.
Meanwhile, the Senators are also coming off consecutive victories, including a 3-2 shootout triumph over the Sabres on New Year's Eve.
The Sens were without Sergei Gonchar for that game after he took a puck to the back of the head during warm up. He was held out of the line up for precautionary reasons but is expected to return to the line up for this one. His return means that Matt Carkner will look on from the press box.
Tonight marks the start of an extremely difficult month for the Sens that will include 14 games, ten of which will be played away from Scotiabank Place. With a tough home and home coming up with the Flyers this weekend, it's important that the Senators find a way to pick up points in home games against the Devils tonight, and Tampa Bay on Thursday.
No changes are expected to the forward combinations.
Craig Anderson gets the start in the Ottawa goal. Puck drop is scheduled for just after 7:30 PM with all the action available on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.
- Three more days to vote! Fan voting for the NHL All Star Game will close at midnight on January 4th so we need to keep voting. The Sens players are in a great position heading into the last couple days but we can't let up now. You can vote 90 times per account. Maxed out all your votes? Don't be afraid to hit up friends and family! Go here to cast your ballot.