The Ottawa Senators are an interesting team. On the cusp of a playoff spot that surprises all but the most rosy-eyed preseason optimists, they are about to seal the 7th or 8th seed with a game or two to spare.
For those who saw the New York Islanders contending for a playoff spot this season instead of falling a likely 10-12 points short, the Sens' story depicts the types of things that would have had to happen: A breakout star like Erik Karlsson, an opportunistic but risky trade from depth to acquire Kyle Turris, positive contributions from the promoted members of last season's AHL Binghampton team, and revivals from skilled forwards who were thought too old (Daniel Alfredsson) too soft/unGRITZy/whatever (Jason Spezza) or too injury-prone (Milan Michalek).
Senators (40-28-10, 7th/E) @ Islanders (33-34-11, 13th/E)
3 p.m. EDT | MSG+ | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Senatorial Speech: Silver Seven
It's fun to see a team like the Sens surprise even themselves in this way. They entered the season tacitly admitting they were rebuilding, and the respected Paul MacLean was brought in from the Red Wings organization to build a foundation and guide them on a steady path back to the playoffs.
When they started the season with five regulation losses and just one shootout win in their first six -- bleeding goals at a rate of 5.0 per game -- it looked like that path would be long indeed. Now they're just a win away.
Like the Isles, the Senators are playing back-to-back matinees this weekend. Yesterday they nearly blew it, squandering a 3-0 lead but hanging on to cash in the NHL's shootout bonus point.
For the Senators, Craig Anderson is back but hasn't exactly been a wall as he's given up three or more goals in each of the last four games.
- Forward lines are the same (Haley!!1), Al Montoya is in net, but the D scratch is to be determined.
- Today is Fan Appreciation Day -- appreciation for enduring another tough season, but to the optimist another brick in the foundation. That means lots of giveaways and neat things, but of course everyone would love a strong performance that keeps the Sens from clinching a playoff spot on Coliseum ice.
- Part of the appreciation comes via the goalie who can't find health: DiPietro buys hot dog and a beverage for the first 5,000.
- Speaking of PR: Michael Grabner gets a "Cake Boss" cake for his boy.
FanShot discussion of the Daily News piece singing tribute to the arena in Brooklyn.
- Newsday's Arthur Staple puts the P.A. Parenteau asking price at 4 years, $16 million.
- John Grahame did indeed think he was getting pranked when his agent called him with news of essentially a 10-day contract.
Mike Halmo, signed to an ELC and then quickly hit with a 10-game suspension by the OHL, is joining Bridgeport on an ATO. (On that note, here is Mark's weekly Bridgeport/Prospect roundup.)
Matt Martin on setting the modern/tracked NHL record for hits:
"I think it’s a big accomplishment. I’m a physical player and to lead the league in any category is pretty special. At the same time, its second nature; I’m going to play physical and I’m going to play the same way my whole career. It’s nice to get the record."
More on Martin: Newsday in the same piece about Grahame linked earlier | Kevin at Islanders Point Blank on what a difference a year makes, reputation-wise.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for today's game in this thread.
It's a back-to-back matinee, so consider this post our in-game thread as well.