SENATORS (25-17-6) at CANADIENS (29-14-5)
TV: CBC, RDS, CNBC
Last 10: Ottawa 6-4-0; Montreal 4-6-0
Big story: The focal point of the series will be the matchup of premier offensive defensemen Erik Karlsson of the Senators and P.K. Subban of the Canadiens, but really this series will boil down to Montreal’s late-season defensive struggles against Ottawa’s season-long offensive woes. Whichever team solves their problem first will come at the expense of the opposing team’s problem, and will likely make the difference in the series.
Senators: In spite of the fact they have a healthy Karlsson on the blue line and a healthy Craig Anderson in goal, coach Paul MacLean and his players have been letting everyone know they are the underdogs in this series, and that the pressure is on the Canadiens.
But the Senators also appear to truly believe that they are playing with house money and will be the looser bunch in this series.
“I think the pressure might be a little bit more on these guys that we’re playing against, just being at home and they had a great season,” defenseman Marc Methot said Wednesday. “We’re the underdogs, we know that. That just allows us to go out there and play. We have nothing to lose.”
The Senators will have Chris Phillips and Milan Michalek in the lineup after both were given a day off from practice Tuesday for some maintenance, and it looks as though Patrick Wiercioch will be scratched on defense while Eric Gryba plays.
Canadiens: As a counterpoint to MacLean’s assertion Tuesday that all the pressure was on the Canadiens, coach Michel Therrien gave his own view of things Wednesday.
In discussing what he told his five players who will be making their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts on Thursday – Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Raphael Diaz, Max Pacioretty and Jarred Tinordi – Therrien gave his philosophical outlook on the word “pressure.”
“Like I told them, don’t feel the pressure, put the pressure,” Therrien said. “Establish the pressure on the other team. That’s the way we have to deal with the pressure.”
If things don’t change before game time, Therrien is expected to scratch Colby Armstrong and Jeff Halpern while Travis Moen and Ryan White – two players who have a more physical role – will be on Therrien’s fourth line with Brandon Prust.
Who's hot: For the Canadiens, center Lars Eller had 13 points in his final 12 games, and his rookie linemate Galchenyuk had 12 points in his last 13 games. … For the Senators, Kyle Turris finished the season with two goals and an assist in his final two games, and Karlsson had four assists and played a minimum of 27 minutes in each of his three games since his return from injury.