The Ottawa Senators were recently able to halt their longest losing streak of the season with a 5-3 win earlier in the week. They will look to maintain some breathing room in the Atlantic Division playoff race as they welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although the Senators have games in hand to teams catching up to them in the standings, another losing streak may prove to be costly.
The last meeting between these two teams was a very high-scoring affair. An 8-5 game in early December saw the Senators unable to contain the Penguins’ big guns. This time, Ottawa will look to return to their identity and slow down the league’s best offence.
Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Canadian Tire Centre – 7:30 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – TSN5 & ROOT
2016-17 Season Series: December 5 – Penguins won 8-5
Ottawa Senators – 21-14-4 – 46 Points – 3rd in Atlantic Division
Home Record: 12-6-4
Hot Players: Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Zack Smith
Key Absences: Andrew Hammond (ankle), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Craig Anderson (personal leave)
Zack Smith – Derick Brassard – Mark Stone
Ryan Dzingel – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Mike Hoffman – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Tom Pyatt
Chris Kelly – Curtis Lazar – Chris Neil
Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Chris Wideman
Pittsburgh Penguins – 26-9-5 – 57 Points – 3rd in Metropolitan Division
Road Record: 8-7-3
Hot Players: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, Connor Sheary, Kris Letang
Key Absences: Brian Dumoulin (jaw), Chad Ruhwedel (illness), Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body)
Conor Sheary – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz – Nick Bonino – Phil Kessel
Scott Wilson – Matt Cullen – Eric Fehr
Trevor Daley – Kris Letang
Ian Cole – Justin Schultz
Olli Maatta – Steve Oleksy
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] Unlike the last game between these two teams, the Senators feel that if they are to beat the Penguins, it will be through defence and structure rather than through offence and skill. “We understand that we’ve got to play a [much] smarter game than last time we were in Pittsburgh,” Stone told the media. The Senators will look to remain aggressive, but do a better job in understanding when the right time is to make certain plays and to remain within their defensive structure.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] The Senators only have one win against the Penguins in their last seven games. For the most part, those games ended in fairly high scores, emphasizing the fact that the Senators should not look to outmatch Pittsburgh’s scoring. Erik Karlsson would likely need to be on the ice for close to half of the game in order to match up against the multitude of Pittsburgh’s scoring lines. It will be interesting to see how the duo of Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf fare, as they continue to be the Senators’ main shutdown pairing.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] The Senators ended a goalless power-play streak during their last game after 14 unsuccessful attempts. The man advantage can be a big boon against the Penguins, who have one of the lower penalty kill success rates in the league at 79%. If the Ottawa power-play can take advantage, it can go a long way into winning this game. The Senators scored three against the Penguins last time, so they should have some confidence that their power-play can succeed.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] It will likely be Matt Murray starting in goal for the Penguins. He has not played since December 22, but backed up Marc-Andre Fleury in Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals. This being the Penguins’ second game in as many nights, it makes sense for Murray to return. He has posted very solid numbers this season, with a 2.18 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. These numbers are far superior to Fleury’s, so it is only a matter of time that the Penguins return to Murray as their number one.