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5 Questions: Ottawa Senators

Offense from Derick Brassard, Mike Hoffman should pay dividends

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent

An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the Ottawa Senators:

 
Can Derick Brassard spark the power play?

One of the Senators' top offseason priorities was to acquire a left-shot center to give new coach Guy Boucher another option on the man-advantage. Brassard, 29, was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers on July 18 and will be asked to improve a power play that ranked 26th in the NHL at 15.8 percent last season and scored 15 power-play goals at home, the fewest in the League. Brassard had 22 of his 58 points on the power play (eight goals, 14 assists) with the Rangers last season.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm2: Brassard buries go-ahead wrist shot

 
Will Clarke MacArthur be able to return from his latest concussion? 

MacArthur, 31, who was expected to fill a top-six forward role, sustained his second concussion in less than a year when he was hit by defenseman Patrick Sieloff during a scrimmage Sept. 25. MacArthur missed the final 78 games last season because of a concussion sustained during a game Oct. 14, 2015. Three days after his most recent concussion, he posted on his Instagram account, "that my intentions are to work towards returning to the ice soon."

 

Can Ottawa get off to better starts? 

The Senators gave up the first goal 51 times last season. They managed to come back to win 14 of those games (14-30-7). When the Senators scored first they were 24-5-2. During camp, Boucher has been preaching preparation and playing fast from the drop of the puck, two areas that would seem to tackle the issue of slow starts head on.

 

Can Boucher help Mike Hoffman become a 35-goal scorer? 

Hoffman led the Senators with 29 goals and nine power-play goals last season, despite ranking sixth in average power-play ice time per game among Senators forwards under former coach Dave Cameron. Boucher and Hoffman have a history: Hoffman played for Boucher and won a championship in 2008-09 with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Boucher said he intends to make Hoffman a featured player on the power play, and that might be enough to get Hoffman into the 35-goal range.

Video: OTT@MTL: Hoffman's second goal is game-winner in OT

 

Will Erik Karlsson win his third Norris Trophy? 

Karlsson joined Hockey Hall of Fame member Denis Potvin as the only defenseman to lead his team in scoring three seasons in a row (Potvin did it four times with the New York Islanders, 1973-74 to 1976-77), and won the Norris Trophy for a second time (also won it in 2012). If the Senators are going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will need another Norris-caliber season from Karlsson. Boucher said Karlsson is the best offensive defenseman in the League, and though he'd like to see Karlsson's defensive game improve, it won't be at the expense of his offense.

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