|Defenceman Filip Kuba logs major minutes for the Senators each night, including duty on both the power-play and penalty-killing units (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Ottawa Senators head coach Cory Clouston prefers to see them as opportunities rather than roadblocks to potential success.
However you want to phrase it, the challenge is clearly there for the Senators' blue-line brigade, which might be missing veteran Filip Kuba
for tonight's matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).
The Czech defenceman has suffered a recurrence of a "slight lower-body injury" that hampered him briefly during the pre-season and Clouston said his status for tonight's game at the Air Canada Centre will be a "game-time decision."
Losing Kuba, who was paired with rookie Erik Karlsson
during Saturday night's season-opening 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, would be a significant blow. Kuba logged 20:56 of ice time against the Blueshirts and sees regular duty on both the power-play and penalty-killing units.
"He plays a lot of minutes," Clouston said following the Senators' pre-game skate at the ACC. "They're big shoes to fill, but it just presents an opportunity for somebody else. It's no different than with Ryan Shannon being out (with an undisclosed injury). It's the same type of idea. He plays on the back end on the power play, so we need other guys to step up."
If Kuba is indeed a no-go, then Alex Picard – a healthy scratch against the Rangers – would be inserted into the lineup. Shean Donovan has been plugged into the forward unit as a fill-in for Shannon and will skate on the fourth line with Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu.
Though the Senators didn't exactly get off on the right foot in New York, they're a confident bunch heading into the first meeting of the season with their provincial rivals in Toronto.
"When we went over our game (Saturday) night ... we did a lot of good things," said Clouston. "What they did better than us was they capitalized on their chances. We had numerous chances and (Rangers goaltender Henrik) Lundqvist was solid. We were a little bit tight around the net.
"He plays a lot of minutes. They're big shoes to fill, but it just presents an opportunity for somebody else. It's no different than with Ryan Shannon being out. It's the same type of idea. He plays on the back end on the power play, so we need other guys to step up." - Cory Clouston
"Tonight, we want to create a little more chaos, create a little more of a net presence and just simplify our game."
While the goals haven't been coming easily for a lineup still working on its chemistry up front, veteran Alex Kovalev said "I don't think you can really judge from one game."
"We're creating enough chances to score goals," he said. "We just didn't score enough the last game. You start panicking if you don't create any opportunities for yourself, but we should be positive. We're doing a lot of good things.
"It's all about just scoring goals. If we score enough tonight, we'll be talking about different things tomorrow."
Added Clouston: "We feel we've got a really good mix of forwards. It's a matter of finding our chemistry. It's one game. It's just one game that we didn't capitalize on our chances. It's a long season and we've just got to keep being persistent and stick with the game plan."Around the boards
Pascal Leclaire makes his second straight start in goal for the Senators tonight, while Swedish rookie Jonas (The Monster) Gustavsson goes between the pipes for the Leafs ... Toronto swept all three meetings between the teams at the ACC last season ... After tonight's game, the Senators return home for a string of four straight dates at Scotiabank Place, starting with Thursday's home-opener against the New York Islanders (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Also in the capital this holiday weekend are the Atlanta Thrashers (Saturday, 7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200) and the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Monday, 7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).