PENGUINS (2-2-0) vs. SENATORS (3-1-0)
WHEN: January 26, 2013 - 5:00 pm | WHERE: Scotiabank Place
After finishing 19 points out of a playoff spot two seasons ago, the Ottawa Senators took the top-seeded New York Rangers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs last year. And so far, the Senators have been busy proving that last year’s success was no fluke and that they’re a legitimate contender with their hot 3-1 start.
Ottawa’s biggest strength is in its ability to score goals. They finished with the league’s fourth-ranked offense last season, led by their veteran core of Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson along with Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson (more on him later). Dominating center Spezza led the Senators with 84 points (34G-50A) last season, while linemate Michalek scored 35 goals and 60 points. They’re both big bodies that use their size to their advantage in the offensive zone and are dangerous together.
Though beloved captain Alfredsson turned 40 on Dec. 11, he had 27 goals last season for the Senators and currently has three assists in four games. And while Nick Foligno and his 47 points were traded to Columbus in the offseason, promising young forward Kyle Turris looks quite capable of making up for any lost offense as he is off to a fast start on a line with Alfredsson and newcomer Guillaume Latendresse. Turris leads the Senators with four goals in four games.
While the Senators have a skilled group of forwards, one of their biggest offensive threats comes from the blue line. Karlsson scored a staggering 78 points in 81 games last season on his way to being named the NHL’s best defenseman and loves using his speed to join the attack. The Senators locked the 22-year-old up in the offseason with a seven-year contract extension. However, the Senators struggled in many defensive categories last season – including penalty kill and goals and shots allowed per game. To help address that, Ottawa acquired shutdown defenseman Marc Methot from Columbus to steady their blue line and he’s been strong on the top pairing with Karlsson. Former Penguin Sergei Gonchar continues to play an integral role on the power play and has been paired with Chris Phillips.
Goalie Craig Anderson is off to an incredible start with the Senators, posting gaudy numbers through his first few games. He started Ottawa’s first three contests, backstopping his way to three wins, a 0.67 goals-against average and .976 save percentage. As backup Ben Bishop started Ottawa’s last game, a 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday, expect to see Anderson in the cage on Sunday..
SENATORS: KYLE TURRIS
It would be easy to choose a player like Jason Spezza for this section, as the veteran center has 41 points (16G-25A) in 32 career games against Pittsburgh. But early in the season, Kyle Turris’ performance has made him Ottawa’s player to watch as he already has four goals and an assist in four games played. Turris, the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft by Phoenix, joined the Senators via trade on Dec. 17, 2011 and scored 29 points in 49 games with his new team. He’s had a long time to get adjusted in Ottawa and has gotten off to a fast start playing wing on a line with captain Daniel Alfredsson and big-bodied winger Guillaume Latendresse. Turris’ speed and scoring ability could pose a problem for Pittsburgh.
PENGUINS: EVGENI MALKIN AND TYLER KENNEDY
It was hard to choose between Malkin and Kennedy, so we’ve made them both players to watch for Pittsburgh on Sunday. Malkin had a number of incredible scoring chances against Winnipeg on Friday, but was ultimately stymied by a Herculean effort from Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Look for Malkin to capitalize on his opportunities on Sunday in Ottawa. The Senators are one of those teams he historically does well against, with 15 goals and 25 points in 23 career games. Kennedy also performs well against Ottawa, with 10 goals and 15 points in 17 career contests. Their line with James Neal was strong on Friday, creating lots of offensive zone time and getting shots to the net. Kennedy teed off a few bombs from his off side. Look for more of that Sunday.
D Jared Cowen (hip surgery, expected to miss the duration of the season)
D Mike Lundin (finger surgery)
Author: Michelle Crechiolo