It is a classic trap game for the Senators, not only because of the impending mini-vacation, but also because they are riding a wave of success, coming largely against very good teams, and they will be staring across at a team that is in a downward spiral.
The Senators should get Mike Hoffman back from the flu that kept him out of Tuesday's win, while new acquisition Tommy Wingels will make his debut in a Sens uniform. The Senators sent Casey Bailey back to Binghamton and it remains to be seen which remaining forward will sit out (barring another flu victim), but my money would be on Curtis Lazar, at least for the first game. It could be a revolving scratch between he and Chris Neil, but I think the veteran has done enough to stay in the lineup and brings an element that the team would miss, while Wingels plays the type of game Lazar has been playing, but an upgrade on it.
On the blue line, Freddie Claesson has impressed on the third pairing with Mark Borowiecki out for an extended period of time with the flu. It will be interesting to see if Claesson continues in the lineup or if Borowiecki is good to go, if he gets back in. Borowiecki skated before practice, but stuck around for the morning skate as well.
One thing that is not uncertain is that Mike Condon will appear in his 24th straight game (15th straight start) and the first game after the break will tie the record of 25 straight appearances set by Damian Rhodes in 1996. One question that will be answered in due time is how the Senators will work when Craig Anderson returns. Condon has done enough to be a #1 goalie for this team, and after Anderson's mini-camp to get back into shape, how will the duties be split. Signs are pointing to the mini-camp possibly starting as soon as today as Pierre Groulx, the Sens goaltending coach, is apparently in New York to work with Anderson. It will be a good problem to have, finding enough starts to keep both goalies busy. I don't know the answer, but I think it is suffice to say that there won't need to be any further lengthy streak for consecutive appearances when Anderson does come back and both should be fresh for the playoff run.
While Ottawa has points in each of their last 5 games (and 6-1-1 in their past 8), the Flames are reeling from four straight losses, giving up 20 goals in that span. They are 0-2 on their Eastern Canada swing that will wrap up tonight, losing 4-0 to Toronto and 5-1 in Montreal on Monday and Tuesday, with the goal in Montreal coming with one second left in the third period. The choice word coach Glen Gulutzan chose to use in describing his team's play was "Pathetic" following the loss in Montreal, and he called out his team and primarily the best players who have failed to show up of late.
Which is kind of a good news/bad news scenario for the Senators. On one hand, facing a team that is struggling and in disarray at the moment should be an advantage, but they can't afford to have a let-down in their game to play at the level the Flames have been playing at. Because professional athletes tend to have a bit of an ego and don't necessarily like to be called out in public and the Senators have to be ready if that tongue-lashing via the media has its intended effect. It is his first season behind the Flames' bench and he might be feeling the heat already, no pun intended, and the Flames sit outside the playoffs looking in having played more games than those around them.
The Senators made some off-ice headlines yesterday, bringing in former MLSE boss Tom Anselmi into the fold as the new President and CEO of the Senators. It won't affect the on-ice product, but Anselmi's construction history and his experience in helping to build the ACC and BMO Field in Toronto was a major reason he was brought in, given the task ahead of building the Senators' new arena at LeBreton Flats, along with the accompanying development.
With the move, Cyril Leeder, who has been with the franchise from day 1 and is a big reason Ottawa is still an NHL city given some past issues, was ushered aside and will no longer be part of the Senators organization.
Also, there is rumours that the Senators will begin the 2017-18 season in Sweden, possibly against the Colorado Avalanche, as well as the long-rumored outdoor game is now almost a sure thing.