After a disappointing overtime setback at the hands of the Washington Capitals, the Ottawa Senators finished a grueling stretch of games away from Scotiabank Place.
The Sens have played 9 of 10 on the road but have done a good job staying competitive over that stretch. Ottawa posted a very respectable 5-3-2 record in their last ten outings and have kept themselves in the mix in the Eastern Conference.
Heading into tonight's games, the Sens sit 9th in the Eastern Conference, with 27 points. That has them tied with Dale Hunter's Washington Capitals with the Sens having played one extra game. We said the same thing about November, but December looks like it could be a make or break month of sorts for the Senators.
They have to find a way to get on a roll on home ice if they want to stay in the thick of things.
The Sens will play 9 of 13 at Scotiabank Place to close out the calendar year. While they have to be happy to finally be on home ice, the opposition lined up could present some problems. Six of those nine home games come against teams currently holding down playoff positions.
Ottawa is going to have get one a pretty good run on home ice to keep themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
- Bryan Murray is still on the hunt for some help at the second line centre position but is looking for a scenario where the other team would take on some contract. Derick Brassard remains the most talked about option. With Matt Carkner expected to wrap up a conditioning stint in the middle of next week, Murray is likely looking to move a defenceman.
- Who would have thought the Sens would miss Filip Kuba as much as they have? He has taken a ton of heat from fans the past couple seasons but has been a key player under Paul MacLean. Kuba has played big minutes and in all situations. He made some progress with his upper-body injury over the weekend but his status for tomorrow night is still in doubt. The Sens will practice at noon at the Sensplex.
- Chris Neil returned to the Ottawa line up for the first time in nine games and looked decent in his return. It's clear that MacLean wants to ease him back into the line up though as the tough guy played just 9:11, most of which came on the 4th line.
- Kuba's absence has meant an increased role for Jared Cowen and he has responded extremely well. Cowen played over 22 minutes in Dallas and followed that up by leading all Sens in ice time on Saturday, logging a career high 28:22. Cowen has earned the trust of his coach with consistent play this season and looks extremely comfortable playing big minutes.
- A quick look at the NHL Stat leaders shows that Sens players are certainly making their impact through the first quarter of the season. Milan Michalek, who scored again last night, is now tied for the league lead in goals with 16. He only scored 18 all of last season. Leader in points among defenceman? 21 year old Erik Karlsson with 23 points. He is also tied for the league lead in assists with 21. And honourable mention to Zenon Konopka who is tied for the league lead in penalty minutes.
- With that in mind, let's be sure to keep voting for the Ottawa Senators for this year's NHL All Star game. It looks like a few guys could earn their way there with solid play but let's vote them to the starting line up! You can vote 30 times per account HERE. Then you can vote an additional 30 times on your mobile device and text the name of your favourite to 81812. Don't be afraid to set up additional accounts if you have some time!
- Don't forget that this Thursday we do the Hunt 4 Chirp! Along with the Wiser's Guy (Follow him on Twitter @Wisers_Ottawa) I'll be hiding somewhere in the city of Ottawa. Throughout the day we'll be posting clues on our Twitter accounts and then at 6:00 PM, the hunt begins! We'll be giving away two pairs of tickets in the Wisers Box for the January 16th game against the Jets. All you have to do is find us! Stay tuned for more details this week.