After two straight losses to the New Jersey Devils, the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to avoid a three-game losing streak against the Ottawa Senators tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Senators are coming off an impressive 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres last night while the Penguins have not played since Sunday night.
January 27, 2013: PIT 2 OTT 1 (Shootout)
February 13, 2013: TBD
April 22, 2013: TBD
There is no question that the Senators are missing forward Jason Spezza, who is out indefinitely after undergoing herniated disc surgery. Spezza was off to a fast start by notching 2 goals and 3 assists in the team’s first 5 games of the season, but then got injured and has been out ever since. Ottawa’s offensive production has tailed off a bit in Spezza’s absence, but they have done a solid job of staying in the race for the Northeast Division lead. With Spezza, the team had been scoring 3.2 goals-per-game. That mark has dropped to 2.54 since he left. As a result of Spezza’s absence, Milan Michalek‘s have dropped off a bit after he had a career year last season with Spezza. 19-year old Mika Zibanejad will take over as the top center for the Senators, which will put a lot of pressure on the young player who was drafted sixth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Zibanejad has recorded a goal and 2 assists in 8 games so far this season.
THE RETURNS OF LETANG/NISKANEN?
Defensemen Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen have both missed some time as a result of lower-body injuries. After each of them participated in today’s morning skate, head coach Dan Bylsma declared Letang and Niskanen as game-time decisions. Dylan Reese, Robert Bortuzzo, and Simon Despres all had increased playing time due to the injuries, but that will change if Niskanen and Letang return tonight. Reese would most likely be sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton if so. Letang has the ninth-most points among all NHL defensemen and appears ready to return to the lineup.
“I feel pretty good. Two practices with the team. It’s been good. It’s the coaches decision. I wanted to get to 100% and I feel pretty good. Ready to go.”
- Kris Letang
One of the biggest surprises of the NHL 2013 season thus far has been the play of Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. The 31-year old Anderson’s 7-2-2 record, .956 save-percentage, 1.36 goals-against average, and 2 shutouts lead the NHL. The Penguins only got one shot past him in their last meeting, but scored three times in the shootout to defeat Ottawa 2-1. Anderson made 33 saves in that contest. Head coach Paul MacLean appears to be riding Anderson until he can’t anymore. Anderson has started 11 of Ottawa’s 13 games and will be playing in his second game in as many nights tonight. He recorded 42 saves against Buffalo last night in his second shutout of the season.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who will start in net tonight for Pittsburgh, is 8-8-1 against the Senators in his career with a 3.41 goals-against average. Fleury recorded the win against the Senators in the first meeting this season with 31 saves.
Before the first meeting this season against Ottawa, the Senators were the only team besides the Penguins who James Neal had not scored a goal against. That quickly changed as Neal scored Pittsburgh’s only goal in regulation in that game.
Ottawa has only allowed 23 goals-against this season, which the least in the NHL.
Defending Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson is already making a case for another Norris. The 22-year old defenseman has scored 6 goals and added 4 assists in 13 games. His 10 points is 1 shy of Ottawa’s team leader, center Kyle Turris.
A good matchup to watch tonight is the special teams. The Penguins come in to the game with the second best power play percentage in the NHL with a 28% mark. However, the Senators have killed 90.2% of their penalties this season, which is good for third best in the NHL.
Probable Senators lines
Probable Penguins lines
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