|Nick Foligno is the latest forward to join the Senators injury list and won't suit up against the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Scotiabank Place. With four regular forwards out, defenceman Chris Campoli will be moved up to the wing this evening (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Old faces in new places. More and more, it's becoming a way of life for the injury-depleted Ottawa Senators.
When the Buffalo Sabres visit Scotiabank Place tonight (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200), they'll be facing a Northeast Division rival missing five regulars from its lineup. The pain is being felt the most up front, where Nick Foligno
is the latest to join a growing list of Senators walking wounded.
Foligno is nursing what, for the moment, is being described as a "lower body injury," with further medical tests being done later today. That piece of news comes less than 24 hours after the Senators learned centre Jason Spezza
will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a torn MCL in his right knee. Factoring in the two-week Olympic break in February, it isn't likely Spezza will rejoin the team until March.
"We're not expecting him back before the Olympics at this point," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray in confirming the severity of his No. 1 centre's injury.
Though he'd obviously like to return much sooner, Spezza seemed resigned to that fate when he spoke briefly with the media after the Senators' pre-game skate today.
"They’re kind of giving me that as a time line now, but we’ll see how it goes," said Spezza. "You always try to get back a little sooner than originally thought but right now, it looks like it’ll probably be after the (Olympic) break."
With Foligno now out and Chris Neil
and Shean Donovan already on the shelf with knee injuries, the Senators' forward ranks have grown perilously thin. So much so that defenceman Chris Campoli, who's been a healthy scratch the last two games, will line up as a winger alongside Binghamton callup Josh Hennessy and Ryan Shannon.
"It’s not the best-case scenario, but it’s what we have right now and we’ll make the best of it," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston, who's eager to see what the move might produce. "(Campoli) is a smart guy, he skates well and he’s got good offensive skills, so he should be able to do just fine up there. Actually, I’m looking forward to seeing him play up there."
Campoli remembers having a real nose for the net as a forward when "I was five or six years old," but he hasn't played the position since then. Still, he's anxious to get back into the game again, even under such unusual circumstances.
"I’m just excited to be able to get in there," he said. "If that’s what Cory wants me to do right now, that’s what I’m going to do. I just want to play, so it’s going to be fun and interesting.
"I feel good about the opportunity. I’m going to go out and help the guys and help the team win. I haven’t played forward in a long time, so it’s going to be a challenge for me. I understand the system… hopefully, I can fill the void and do a good job."
"I’m just excited to be able to get in there.If that’s what Cory wants me to do right now, that’s what I’m going to do. I just want to play, so it’s going to be fun and interesting. I feel good about the opportunity. I’m going to go out and help the guys and help the team win. I haven’t played forward in a long time, so it’s going to be a challenge for me. I understand the system ... hopefully, I can fill the void and do a good job." - Chris Campoli
Ottawa's current crisis almost mirrors a dire situation three years ago, when the team's top three centres (Spezza, Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette) were all on the injured list. But with their season hanging in the balance, the Senators produced a stretch of hockey that catapulted them all the way to an appearance in the Stanley Cup final.
While Murray doesn't exactly expect a repeat of that, he knows the formula for success in such situations hasn't changed.
"Your good players that are healthy and going (well) know the game’s got to be a little different," he said. "You can’t take as many chances. You can’t give up bad goals. They have to step up in a workmanlike way and do it. That helped our team (in 2006) because everybody got better habits and in the long run, when our offensive guys came back, they just fit right in.
"You can’t count on that on a regular basis. We’ve got five guys out right now and that’s a little much for any team, but I think we’ve got enough guys here that know how to play that it gives us a chance."
Clouston figures to deliver a similar message later on tonight.
"Don’t waver from what we’re trying to do. Don’t get off page," he said. "We need a team game now more than ever. We need to work as units. We can’t have one or two guys thinking now they have to pick up the slack. We have to do it by committee. Now the message becomes louder and even more clear."
Around the boards
The revamped Senators lines during the pre-game skate this morning: Milan Michalek-Jesse Winchester-Daniel Alfredsson; Peter Regin-Mike Fisher-Alex Kovalev; Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Jonathan Cheechoo; Chris Campoli-Josh Hennessey-Ryan Shannon ... Brian Elliott makes his 14th straight start in goal tonight ... Clouston suggested this morning that Neil and goaltender Pascal Leclaire (fractured cheekbone)
could possibly make their return on Dec. 23, when the Senators visit the Pittsburgh Penguins. Leclaire is expected to resume practising with the team later in the week ... Fewer than 3,500 tickets remain for tonight's matchup with Buffalo. It's another Subway Savings Game
, with all regular-priced tickets
priced at 20 per cent off, starting at $14 in the Coke Zero Zone.