Sens Central Moderator
Just when you thought the Ottawa Senators had their hands full trying to escape a four-game skid on the road, they have a tall task ahead of them – literally.
They will face 6-7 former netminder Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight (7 p.m., Sportsnet, TVA, Team 1200) in an attempt to right a ship that had wind in its sails when the two teams clashed Mar. 23.
The 5-8 Cory Conacher, who came to Ottawa on deadline day in return for Bishop in what was probably the most lopsided height exchange in league history, will also face his former club tonight.
It’s been a world of difference since that 5-3 decision over the Bolts, a victory which was smack in the middle of streak that saw the Sens take six of seven and look at top spot in the Northeast Division. They have since slipped to sixth in the Eastern Conference and are only four points up on ninth-place New Jersey.
In what has been a season-long sprint to the finish in an abbreviated campaign, anything can happen.
The most tangible reason for the slide has been the lack of production on the power play, which is now 0-17 over the four losses. Facing the big netminder — who turned away 45 shots in his Lightning debut — who is familiar with his opponents won’t make it any easier.
“We’ve done some extensive work on it (power play), and some today,” said head coach Paul MacLean ahead of tonight’s tilt. “We need it to provide us with some offence and we’ll see the opportunities we’ll create tonight off of it.”
The coach has been impressed with Conacher’s first few games in a Sens uniform.
“He has speed and skill, and good vision with the puck,” said MacLean. “We think right now the chemistry is developing with (Jakob) Silfverberg and (Mika) Zibanejad … that line has been very good for us in the two games that he’s played. They have the ability to hang on to the puck, the three of them. They’re very skilled, they see the ice very well, and so far we like the way it’s gone.”
Conacher is chomping at the bit. “I’ve built a lot of good relationships in the locker room over there in Tampa. I’m usually that gritty player who likes to chirp and get in guys’ heads. It might be a little different with those guys but I’m going to play the same game and hopefully come out on top.”
Bishop, for his part, was succinct when asked about facing his former club. “This is the first time I’ve played against my ex-team. If you can’t get excited for a game like this, then you’ve got a problem.”
Craig Anderson will get the nod in the Ottawa net after making his return from an ankle injury in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Florida.
SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND: Pop superstar Rihanna was spotted over the weekend sporting a Sens heritage jersey to a party in Los Angeles. Ottawa e-magazine 613 Style has a few more photos, none of which show the back. The debate is already underway as to which Senator is her favourite. Eric Gryba disagreed with Matt Kassian, insisting Rihanna is a Gryba fan. Kassian also thinks that she's too mainstream for Marc Methot. Last but not least – imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, as Stuntman Stu was kind enough to re-create the pantless pose. The singer makes a stop in Ottawa May 2 as part of her 'Diamonds' world tour, a few days after the Stanley Cup playoffs begin. The Sens Army will be happy to have one of its most famous members in town at the start of another run.
SHINE BRIGHT LIKE GOLD: Female superstars of the hockey variety take over Scotiabank Place tonight, as rivals Canada and the United States will clash for gold in the final of the IIHF women’s world hockey championship at 7:30 p.m. Great seats are still available!