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Where Will Sens’ Roll Lead To?

Well, that was a nice weekend, wasn’t it? Valentine’s day has never seen a bunch of guys give me a gift as great as the comeback win against the defensive juggernaut that is Minnesota.

Still, it’s not all going to be sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows from here on out. The season will still bring a dual heartbreak for fans.

From the Ottawa Citizen,

Bryan Murray is in that awkward, uncomfortable middle ground that no National Hockey League general manager likes to find himself in.

His team is not going to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, but all of a sudden it is playing itself right out of the John Tavares-Victor Hedman draft sweepstakes.

There’s no pot of gold at either end of the rainbow.

As a fan, after watching the utterly humiliating defeats, record, and issues of this club for much of the season, coming a few Thomas shootout saves away from beating the League’s best team, then handing a pair of defeats to Buffalo before sinking five pucks into both the Flyers’ and the Wild’s nets has given some joy for the first time in a long while. Hard fought and earned, these victories come with more satisfaction than in previous seasons where ten minutes of play alone could win a game thanks to the talent, still depriving fans of 50 minutes of quality hockey. As depressed as fans might’ve been through the confusion of the first Wild period and the 3-0 hole they were in, quickly they were treated to 40 minutes of hockey, five goals, including two shorthanded, one of which marked Phillips’ 50th goal, the softest hands he’d ever displayed as fans were likely screaming at Alfie not to pass the puck during that 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway.

From the Ottawa Sun, Ruutu dodged a bullet,

Ruutu, who has already been suspended twice this season, dodged a bullet after receiving only a fine yesterday for grabbing Minnesota winger Cal Clutterbuck as Ruutu sat on the Ottawa bench in the third period of the Senators’ 5-3 victory Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.

“It’s just a stupid play by me. It’s just a reaction and I guess I held him for an extra second. There’s no excuse for that, especially at that time of the game,” said Ruutu, who could have been fined up to $2,500 US by Campbell.

“We were up 4-3 and they get a chance to score. I know those hurt. I’m frustrated with myself. I took that penalty. All I can do is just learn from it and I’ve just got to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Because it just can’t happen.”

You can bet that emotions were running high and sensibilities low after those three goals, but the impressive comeback win should help to calm the group, letting them feel confident that no situation is ever truly out of hand, something that might come in handy when the Sharks come to town.

From the Ottawa Sun, tonight’s Nashville lineup,

While Senators coach Cory Clouston wouldn’t confirm his starter for tomorrow night’s game against the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center, Auld is expected to get the nod.

Clouston said the plan was always to play Auld in one of these games. The victory over the Wild was Auld’s first since Dec. 6.

“(The plan’s) not going to change. The only change was putting Alex in last night,” Clouston said today. “We’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow but the plan was always to play him in one of these last two games.”

That kind of a reward program shouldn’t surprise anyone, nor should the lack of any lineup changes, Schubert and Picard likely to be healthy scratches yet again. Tonight will mark Brendan Bell’s 79th NHL game. It won’t mean much to Sens fans, but to those in Binghamton on the up and down swing of impressive wins and hard to swallow defeats, looking to rejoin the playoffs that were missed last season, it does have extra significance.

Bell has worked hard in Ottawa, and played some key powerplay time in setting up important goals. But, once he reaches the 80 game threshold (edit - actually, there are enough rules around it that he’s already required to clear waivers), he cannot be sent down to Binghamton without first clearing waivers. Considering Ottawa is still highly unlikely to make the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of the current roster (Bell, Elliott, Lee, Shannon) returned to the AHL to reward Binghamton’s fans, who’ve been used to disappointing seasons of late. As there are few designated sellers only a few weeks from the trade deadline, the sight of an RFA-impending puck moving defenseman on the waiver wire would prompt action.

With Nashville chasing a playoff spot (who in the West isn’t at this stage?), and coming off a victory comparably impressive on Saturday (3-2 over Boston), they will be just as fired up. Nashville is in the goal-scoring basement with the Sens, so expect to see a keen focus on avoiding the defensive gaffes of Saturday to dispirit the Predators as early as possible. With a goaltending duel emerging between Ellis and Rinne, there could be some extra fire for the Sens to contend with, but early pressure could also serve well to jitter some nerves. For those interested in stat sheets, watch the silent face off battle between Vermette (5th in the League with a 57.6% success rate, who’s tumbled of late) and ex-Sen Radek Bonk (2nd, 61.4%).

Sure enough, though, it looks to be a compelling one. There won’t be a Tavares-Hedman lottery in Ottawa’s future, nor a berth in the playoffs, but hope for next season remains, at which point many could find themselves looking back at this psychological turning point and thanking their lucky stars that the team wasn’t blown up.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net