The Ottawa Senators are an enigma.
Currently standing on the outside looking in for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Senators prepare to enter the New Year with momentum that has escaped them thus far in the 2013-14, failing to win back to back games in a span of nearly two months.
|Defenseman Erik Karlsson leads Ottawa in scoring|
Well, here's their chance.
The Senators visit TD Garden in Boston on Friday night, four days removed from dragging the Pittsburgh Penguins behind the proverbial woodshed and giving them a thorough bad boy Christmas beating that they won't soon forget, with the opportunity to do the same to the Bruins - a team that they treated similarly back in mid-November.
But that was at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, not at the Garden where the Bruins are riding a home winning streak of seven consecutive games and lead the Atlantic Division of the NHL's Eastern Conference - even so, the Senators are aware that it gets nothing but tougher from here, a stretch of 11 of 14 games on the road await them after the turn of the calender to 2014...
...so if Ottawa plans on making the post-season, they understand that Friday and Saturday's home and home series against the Bruins and subsequent winnable home contests against Washington and Winnipeg are essential to momentum and confidence heading into the protracted road stretch.
"We haven't done it on a consistent game-to-game basis." said Senators goalie Craig Anderson after Monday's win over the Pens. "We've had a good game, bad game type of thing. The great teams find a way to do it well every night. It's one of those things where we can feel good about ourselves right now but we can't rely on this one game and this one game and this one performance."
"We have to repeat and repeat and do it on a nightly basis to become confident and feel good about your game." he continued.
The Bruins are not immune to mailing one in every now and then either, but they have been far more consistent than the Senators and hold a 15 point bulge over them as a result - and given the fact that Boston is a golden 12-0-2 at TD Garden since late October, trying to take one in Beantown is an uphill struggle...
...so much of a struggle that coach Paul Maclean needs his hottest hands on the ice, and that may mean that Anderson could sit on Friday night while backup netminder Robin Lehner starts between the pipes, Lehner with better career numbers against the Bruins.
As for Boston, it's just a matter of continuing to play well, and they get a big boost in that direction as Daniel Paille returns from a concussion to solidify the Merlot line, though the Bruins' energy line will still be without left wing Shawn Thornton, who continues to serve a 15 game suspension. The club sent Nick Johnson packing back to AHL Providence to make room for Paille while Jordan Caron continues to fill in for Thornton.
Defenseman David Warsofsky also was sent back to Providence, raising speculation that Dougie Hamilton - who has resumed skating in recovery from a lower-body injury - soon will be able to return to the lineup, but probably not on Friday night.
In a surprise move, the Bruins have recalled goalie Niklas Svedberg from Providence, probably just to let him get his feet wet in one of the ends of the home-and-home series - possibly starting one of the two matches...
Bruins Projected Lines:
1st: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
2nd: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
3rd: Carl Soderberg - Ryan Spooner - Matt Fraser
4th: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Jordan Caron
1st: Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
2nd: Dennis Seidenberg - Torey Krug
3rd: Adam McQuaid - Matt Bartkowski
Senators Projected Lines:
1st: Corey Conacher - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
2nd: Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan
3rd: Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
4th: Mika Zibanejad - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Erik Condra
1st: Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
2nd: Cody Ceci - Chris Phillips
3rd: Mark Methot - Eric Gryba
Craig Anderson - Robin Lehner