|After a six-game absence because of injury, defenceman Filip Kuba could return to the Senators lineup for their game tonight in Atlanta (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
For the first time in a long time, Cory Clouston might need to make some hard game-time roster decisions.
The Ottawa Senators head coach will gladly live with that dilemma.
When the Senators hit the ice against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena tonight (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), Clouston could have a complete roster at his disposal. Mike Fisher (upper body) and Filip Kuba
(lower body) both took the pre-game skate earlier today and might be added to the lineup for tonight's opener of a three-game road trip.
"We’ll know more before game time," said Clouston. "That’s a possibility. It’s nice to have healthy bodies, for sure. We still have a few guys with some bumps and bruises but other than that, we are fairly healthy."
The Senators haven't been able to say that since October and the timing couldn't be better, given that they're trying to put the brakes on a 1-5-1 skid since the end of the Olympic break. Ottawa also figures to be tested by an Atlanta team that is fighting for its playoff life and handed the Senators a 6-1 thrashing back on Jan. 12.
"The last time we were in Atlanta, they laid a pretty good licking on us," said Senators centre Jason Spezza
. "It's an important game for us. We've lost too many games lately and we definitely want to get back on track. We'll be ready to play."
The possible return of the veteran Kuba, who's been sidelined since the Senators' first game back from the break (March 2 vs. the New York Rangers), would give a big lift to Ottawa's blue line.
"It’s nice to have healthy bodies, for sure. We still have a few guys with some bumps and bruises but other than that, we are fairly healthy." - Cory Clouston
"He's very poised back there, he makes good reads and he helps with the breakout," said Clouston. "Just with the overall presence of the power play, he's very effective for us."
While the Thrashers scored a huge 4-3 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday night — a result that actually helped the Senators' quest to chase down Buffalo for the Northeast Division lead — their playoff chances are on life support thanks to a six-game losing streak that preceded it.
Clearly, the Senators are facing a desperate foe tonight. But given his own team's current struggles to put victories and goals on the board, Clouston isn't concerned about the Thrashers' predicament.
"We're not worried about their desperation," he said. "We're more worried about our urgency and getting back to playing the way we need to be playing."Around the boards
Brian Elliott (23-16-3) makes his second straight start in goal tonight ... With a victory tonight, the Senators would earn a split of the four-game season series with the Thrashers ... Ottawa's road trip continues Saturday in Dallas against the Stars (2 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), then wraps up Monday in Montreal vs. the Canadiens (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet, Team 1200).