There’s nothing like losing four players in two days to hit home the fact that your team’s forward depth is lacking.
Heading into the weekend with games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets, the Ottawa Senators were the healthiest they’ve been this season. Craig Anderson is back and easing into his starting role, while Marc Methot came back from a short illness. Other than Clarke MacArthur who is out for the season, and possibly his career, the Senators had a full lineup.
Cue the injury bug.
A Bad Beginning
After defeating the New Jersey Devils with a 3-0 shutout, the Senators rolled into Toronto for the Battle of Ontario. Hockey Night in Canada didn’t disappoint as the Senators earned an entertaining 6-3 victory at the Air Canada Centre.
Despite Mark Stone having an enormous five-point night, the story in Ottawa was Bobby Ryan suffering an injury. Once again, Ryan will be out for a while with a broken finger after blocking a shot. Ryan has already struggled to produce relative to his contract and now he will miss another few weeks. Seeing as he hadn’t been playing his best hockey, this may have been a setback that the Senators could survive.
#Sens Bobby Ryan has a broken finger that does not require surgery, expected to miss approximately a month.
— Sens Communications (@Media_Sens) February 21, 2017
A Forgettable Finish
After defeating the Maple Leafs, the Senators traveled back home to take on the Jets the next day. Although they lost Ryan, the win in Toronto left Ottawa only two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the Atlantic Division lead, with three games in hand. Optimism was in the air as the puck dropped against the Jets at the Canadian Tire Centre.
The trouble began in the first period. Toward the end of the frame, Mike Hoffman went to the locker room with an apparent lower-body injury. It was announced that he would not return.
Then, in the third period, Jacob Trouba delivered an illegal hit to the head on Mark Stone. Stone, who has arguably been the Senators’ best forward this season, was left lying on the ice. He had already suffered a concussion in the preseason and Sens fans were holding their breath as Stone was helped off the ice. Trouba received a two-game suspension from the NHL for the hit.
Mark Stone leaves the game after taking a hit to the head from #Jets Jacob Trouba. Ouch. #WPGvsOTT pic.twitter.com/qic4dJUuoz
— Alan (@AlanDownward) February 20, 2017
Before the end of the game, Tommy Wingels also had to be helped off the ice after a hit from Dustin Byfuglien.
Oh, and Ottawa lost 3-2.
Exposing Lack of Depth
Sens' FWD depth tonight vs. NJ:
Dzingel – Turris – Pyatt
Smith – Brassard – Lazar
Wingels – Pageau – Neil
McCormick – Kelly – Bailey
— Callüm Fraser (@CallumFraser18) February 21, 2017
To recap, the Senators finished their back-to-back weekend with a regulation win, loss, and four injured players. Of those four injured, three are key pieces in Stone, Hoffman and Ryan. After the loss to Winnipeg, Ottawa coach Guy Boucher described his team’s injury situation as a disaster.
Boucher confirms Bobby Ryan has a broken finger. 4-6 weeks. Stone is injured (Neck). Hoffman out with groin injury. Wingels is questionable
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 21, 2017
Fortunately, this weekend’s plague of injuries might not be as disastrous as Boucher expected. Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Tommy Wingels are all with the team for their upcoming road trip.
Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Tommy Wingels all made the trip to Jersey. Coach Boucher will have a roster update 2morrow. #tsn1200
— gord wilson (@gordwilson) February 20, 2017
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety mentioned that Stone received no apparent injury when announcing Trouba’s suspension. However, Stone will be missing from their game on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils due to a neck injury. He did not participate in the Senators’ morning skate in Newark.
Boucher made it clear he had no idea how department of player safety said in its video Stone wasn't injured. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) February 21, 2017
Mike Hoffman also missed the pregame skate and will be out for their game against the Devils. It is unknown how long he will miss, but his presence with the team is a good sign he will see action on this road trip.
Wingels is not expected to lose any more time, skating as usual with the team on Tuesday morning.
Ryan is still expected to miss four to six weeks and did not travel with the team.
Who Will Step Up?
The Senators have recalled forwards Casey Bailey and Max McCormick from the Binghampton Senators. Curtis Lazar and Chris Neil will both be in the lineup, a rare occurrence since they’ve been rotating as healthy scratches lately. None of Bailey, Lazar, McCormick or Neil is expected to make offensive contributions.
Updates from coach Boucher: Stone (neck) and Hoffman (groin) will not play; Bailey, McCormick, Neil and Wingels expected to play tonight.
— Sens Communications (@Media_Sens) February 21, 2017
The Senators are lacking in forward depth, and this string of injuries in a short amount of time is exposing that. With the trade deadline coming soon, general manager Pierre Dorion may look into cheap rental options at forward. He is faced with the tough task of assessing whether his current roster with the injury situation can get the team to the playoffs.
Although few expect the Senators to challenge for the Stanley Cup, making the postseason is a realistic goal they should achieve. Perhaps if they can get an established bottom six forward for a later draft pick, it would be worth the investment. If the price is too high, or Stone and Hoffman are back soon, they may weather the storm.