After a dismal 1-3 road trip during which the Ottawa Senators were outscored 17-6, they are set to face the Los Angeles Kings tonight at Scotia Bank Place.
This will be the Kings’s third game of a four-game road trip. They sustained a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, before beating the Boston Bruins in overtime 4-3 at TD Bank North on Saturday. They will conclude their trip in Montreal against the Canadiens on Wednesday.
The Kings are no easy opponent, ranking 2nd in the Western Conference with a 13-6 record for 26 points in 19 games. While they are 8-1 at home, the Kings are only 5-5 on the road so far this season. But that doesn’t mean they will be an easy prey for the Senators, who have been wildly inconsistent this year.
The Senators began their road trip by blanking the Bruins 2-0 in Boston. Brian Elliott was phenomenal, stopping the 31 shots he faced, earning his first shutout this season. It was Elliott’s seventh career shutout. Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson scored for the Senators.
Things started to go bad in Philadelphia on Monday where the Senators were outmatched by the Flyers 5-1. Mike Richards finished the night with two goals and one assist while teammate Claude Giroux added one goal and two helpers. Brian Elliott was bombarded by the Flyers, stopping 41 of the 46 shots he faced. Jason Spezza was the lone goal scorer for Ottawa. Ottawa had won three of four against the Flyers last season.
On Wednesday, things went from bad to worse as the Senators were humiliated 7-1 in Raleigh by the Carolina Hurricanes. Eric Staal had three goals, including the 200th of his career, and two assists in the victory over the heavy-hearted Senators. The team had delayed its flight to attend a memorial service earlier in the day in Ottawa for the 14-year-old daughter of assistant coach Luke Richardson, who committed suicide on Friday. The Senators didn’t arrive in Raleigh until late in the afternoon.
Chad Larose finished the night with two goals and two assists while Cam Ward bounced back from two mediocre performances against Philadelphia and Montreal, making 23 saves for the win. Brian Elliott only stopped 12 of the 16 shots he faced before being pulled in favour of Pascal Leclaire. The latter didn’t fare much better, stopping 9 of the 12 shots he received. Daniel Alfredsson scored the only goal on the power play for the Senators.
On Friday, the St. Louis Blues snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the Senators 5-2 and improved to 7-0-1 at home. The Senators playing an uninspired road game, shooting only 20 times on St. Louis’ backup goaltender Ty Conklin. Mike Fisher, who scored his first goal in eight games for Ottawa, and Jesse Winchester were the goal scorers. Five different players recorded two points for the Blues, who scored three goals in 86 seconds in the middle frame to take a 3-1 lead. Ottawa forward Ryan Shannon was skating in his 200th NHL game.
After surrendering five goals on 33 shots against the Blues, Brian Elliot’s record stands at 9-7 in 16 games with a 3.14 GAA and .905 save percentage. He will back-up Pascal Leclaire tonight. Leclaire will make his first start in the club’s net since a 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 11th in Ottawa.
Defenseman Erik Karlsson will also be a healthy scratch after battling the flu for several days. David Hale, who has been a healthy scratch for four straight games., will take his spot on the blue line.
Head coach Cory Clouston will also juggling his lines quite a bit in an attempt to spark his struggling team. Here are the projected lines against the Kings.
C. Kelly-J. Spezza-D. Alfredsson
M. Michalek-P. Regin-A. Kovalev
N. Foligno-M. Fisher-R. Shannon
J. Ruutu-J. Winchester-C. Neil
C. Phillips-S. Gonchar
F. Kuba-D. Hale
M. Carkner-C. Campoli
Some Senators are struggling mightily so far this season, which can certainly explain their 9-10-1 for 19 points in 20 games, good for 10th in the Eastern Conference. Nick Foligno has been mediocre so far in 2011-11, with only five assists in 20 games. He has scored a goal yet on 32 shots. He has also a -5 plus/minus differential.
Mike Fisher, who scored 25 goals and 28 assists for 53 points last year, has only eight points (5 g and 3 a) in 20 games. For a player who has been playing with the team’s leading scorer, it’s just a poor performance.
Peter Regin, who was expected to provide depth scoring this season, has only scored one goal (and eight assists) this season. The inconsistent Alexei Kovalev has also been a disappointment, recording only five goals and four assists for nine points in 20 contests. He has also a -4 plus/minus differential. Kovalev will be a UFA at season’s end and don’t expect the Senators to re-sign him.
Finally, Milan Michalek is nearly invisible. His surgically repaired left knee have been bothering him more than he is willing to tell the media. He lost four games with a bout of knee tendonitis earlier this season, but he hasn’t scored a goal in November, notching four goals and three assists for seven points in 16 games.
With so many question marks, no wonder the Ottawa Senators are struggling to win hockey games. Will they turn around tonight against the Kings? We’ll see when the puck drops at 7:30 EDT.
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About the Author: Working as a freelance sports writer and translator, Fred, 33, graduated from Laval University in Quebec City, earning a bachelor of translation in 2002. An avid fan of the Northeast division teams, he's also a long time fan of the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Fred also speaks fluently French and Spanish. http://twitter.com/FredPoulin98 www.traductions-quebec.com