Tonight in the NHL, on Hockey Night in Canada, we’ll be going back to the Battle of Ontario.
It’s been a week since the Senators lost 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Ottawa at the Canadian Tire Centre. So, tonight will be a rematch when the two teams face off and renew hostilities at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, as Ottawa will try to win and get a perfect 3-0 road trip record.
It won’t be so easy since there is a lot of animosoty between the two teams and the games between them are always heated. Tonight, the Sens will come to Toronto with a lot of confidence after a 2-0 win over the mighty Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, and they banked a 6-4 win against the fast St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
If the Sens can win tonight they’ll be four points ahead of the Leafs for the second spot in the Atlantic Division and that’s exactly what Ottawat wants, to put distance between themselves and their enemies.
“It’s huge,” said centre Kyle Turris, who scored his 16th of the season vs. the Jackets. “The toughest one is going to be the last one. Toronto is a really good team and really fast. We’ve just got to play similar to the way we did (against Columbus).”
Ottawa will have revenge on their minds, where as the Leafs will want to find some redemption after badly losing to the New York rangers at home on Thursday night, 5-2.
The Senators’ goaltender Mike Condon made 42 saves in his 20th straight appearance and 11th consecutive start on Thursday night and is expected to play tonight. “It’s going to be another challenge in Toronto,” Condon said. “We owe those guys from the last game we played so it should be a great game.”
The Sens were dealing with a flu outbreak on their team earlier this week but they should be recovered by tonight.
“This was a battle for everyone,” Senators defenseman and captain Erik Karlsson said. “This is the time of year when you don’t feel your best. We kept it simple when we needed to and we created enough scoring chances to put the puck in the net.”
“A lot of guys were feeling under the weather, not just me, but as the game went on I started feeling a lot better,” said Ryan Dzingel, who scored his first goal in nine games Thursday. “Scoring and winning helps you to feel a little less sick.”
The Maple Leafs were not sick but played like they were when they had their three-game winning streak stopped by the Rangers. They had defeated the Rangers in New York 4-2 last Friday so the Rangers got their revenge, the very same kind the Sens will be looking for.
“We were terrible last night,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock told media after Friday’s team practice. “We didn’t compete, we weren’t prepared. That’s my job. Our goaltender (Frederik Andersen) gave us a chance and we still found a way not to respond.”
Toronto will be without their top defenseman Morgan Rielly, who got injured to his lower-body during their win Tuesday over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Rielly is listed as day to day but will not play 100% on Saturday as Babcock told media.
“One hundred percent not available tomorrow,” Babcock said.
Defenseman Martin Marincin might be able to return to the Leafs’ lineup on Saturday. He was out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 10. and will be a much welcomed sight if he can hit the ice.
D-man Frank Corrado took over Rielly’s spot in Thursday’s game, which was only his second game with the Leafs this season, but his play was less than stellar and there was a lot of inconsistencies in his performance. So, Jake Gardiner had to take Rielly’s place instead on the team’s top defensive pairing with D-man Nikita Zaitsev.
“It definitely wasn’t the way we’ve been playing,” Gardiner said of the game on Thursday. “I think we can be better in all areas. When you go down like that, it’s tough to come back. When one of your top defensemen, Morgan, goes down, it’s going to change a lot for everyone and different guys have to step up.
“Just move on and go to work on Saturday. We’ve been really hot lately and it’s probably time for a reality check.”
Ottawa got some bad news of its own Friday when they announced that left winger Clarke MacArthur will not return this season because of concussion issues. He might never play again. He suffered his fourth concussion in 18 months on Sept. 25 during training camp and hasn’t played this year. MacArthur has been key for Ottawa in the dressing room, and is hard to replace.
This game will be the third match between the rivals this season. The Sens won the season opener 5-4 on Oct. 12 in overtime, and then the Leafs evened the score last week.
“We’re going to be extremely hungry,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “Toronto’s very hot. It’s 1-1 now versus them and we’re going into their barn, hostile territory, but I think that’s what’s exciting. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Sens don’t like to lose to the Leafs. Last time they were able to force Toronto back up goalie Curtis McElhinney to make 35 stops, but not many of those shots were screened or tough enough and that is exactly what the Sens will have to do if they want to beat the Leafs tonight.