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Game Day 5: Sens vs Sabres

by Craig Medaglia @craigmedaglia / Ottawa Senators

We take a look at 5 things before the Sens host the Buffalo Sabres on Valentine's Day...

1. Starting Goalies

After blanking the Islanders in his return on Saturday, Craig Anderson is set to start his second straight game for the Sens tonight. Anderson is 13-6-1 on the season and has recorded 4 shutouts in just 20 starts this year.

At the other end of the rink, it's Robin Lehner again for the Sabres. I think I'll avoid talking about his career stats versus Ottawa this time. He's 14-16-6 on the season for Buffalo.


2. Projected line-up

One small change up front for the Sens tonight as Chris Neil returns to action after sitting out the past couple of games. That means the Sens are going back to a 12 forward and 6 defencemen line-up and as of now it appears that Fredrik Claesson will be the odd man out. The coach wouldn't confirm that though and mentioned that one of his other blueliners is banged up so he'll wait until closer to puck drop to finalize his game roster.

Here's a look at the forward lines and defence pairings for tonight's game:


3. From the coach

Sens head coach Guy Boucher met with the media this morning and touched on a variety of topics including solving Robin Lehner, Bobby Ryan being used on the third line and more...

On facing Robin Lehner: 

I don't think we've solved him yet, that's for sure. It's much bigger than that. If you look at the last game, we played fine but really he saw all of the pucks. We have not played our best against that team. If you take the exhibitions games included, we've won one out of six games against them. So certainly we haven't been at our best for whatever reason, but I think every game has been a different story. So if it was a general trend, except for the fact that we have not done a very good job in front of the goaltender, we've turned the puck over so many times against them and they jam the blue line - they've got 4 or 5 guys there. If you turn it over there, they hurt you. I think in our own end, their o-zone, they're good at forcing themselves in. Guys like Okposo, a thick guy who walks in inside those dots and can create havoc, and a guy like Eichel who can really pull something out of his hat and we've got to be aware of it. Without looking at them, I'm looking at us versus them. We played better at the beginning of the year against them, but the last games we've played against them… we had parts that looked fine last game, in the second period we looked great until we got scored on with three minutes left in the second but the hurt was already done in the first period. We got to be better against those guys, that's for sure. I don't know if it's looking at them with the eyes of the past, but I think everyone has to realize this is a good team. You look on paper here, if they would have had everybody since the beginning of the year, they would be in the mix up there with everybody. They have really good depth, really good players and really good goaltending. So really, they just trailed behind because they got some injuries at the beginning of the year. I think right now, we have to absolutely take this team more than seriously. 

On whom he'll have matchup with Eichel tonight: 

That's a surprise. Our mentality in general has been that when we have some thicker and stronger guys that are good on the boards, we've had Dion Phaneuf and Ceci play against those guys. When we had guys that have more skill and more speed, we tend to go towards Methot and Karlsson - but sometimes we try it and then we see it's not as good, and the other line is better than that line tonight, so we'll change. You've got Eichel with speed and skill, and the other line you got Okposo and O'Reilly who are thick guys so pretty sure you can figure out what we're going to try and do. 


On Bobby Ryan skating on the third line:

I don't look at it as in a rebuild. Right now we've got them playing hard, defending hard, and in the right places so right now that's what I'm focusing on. As for the rest, just the same as when we put Mike Hoffman on that line. You've got Pageau and Pyatt - whoever we put with them works. To me right now it's more about having Hoffman with Turris to create a bit of speed. Turris is flying right now and since I took Dzingel off that line because we created a bit more speed with Stone and Brassard and it helped us win the last two games - that's why I tend to go with Bobby with that line. Bobby is really smart, so when he gets the puck, it's rare that he's going to make a mistake with that puck. Most of the time, you're not going to turn over the puck when he's there and Pyatt and Pageau are the relentless guys that are first on the puck so I thought it was a good mix and it worked great last game. For me, I'd rather look at what he's doing well and right rather than what I'm missing. Right now, we're not missing. We've won the last two games, we've been consistent all year and every player has had to play different roles. I'm a big fan of versatility - don't be just that guy, you can do more, you're an NHL player, you could be a left wing playing on the right, you could take a backhand on a breakout, you can shield and manage in a neutral zone whether you're a lefty or righty. I love the centers to play wing and so on because then you just create more tools in your tool box with really the same tools and you can create more depth. He's just been part of that in that role right now. Two games from now or two periods from now, things might change…Right now; I'm not looking to reinvent somebody. Somebody has asked me about salaries and all of that - that is the last thing in my mind. I don't coach salaries, I don't coach contracts, I coach players and the player today. It's about winning so what do we need to do. He's been part of that, and he's been good. I certainly don't have any issues, we've had two good days -everything was positive. 

On managing both goalies:

We'll mix it up; we're not going to go with Andy every game. Right now we've got what we would have loved to have all year is a normal lineup of goaltenders. You have a clear number one and a backup who you can put in any game. That's what we've got right now. We have to take into consideration that Andy hasn't played in two months. We don't want to overwhelm him right now and have him pull a groin or something because he's not used to playing many games in a row. We'll be smart so he's playing tonight but we'll manage the next games for sure in a manner that we can ease him into his job rather than just throwing him out there and hope he can adjust. It's not the game itself; right now it's managing after games how much work he had to do. I've had a lot of talks with the goalie coach about that. It's easy for me - I want him in every game but that would not be smart. So right now it's get him in - that's two games in a row and then we'll see if he stays in the next game or maybe next game we put Condon back and manage the back to back. Right now on paper it's a normal situation, but really we have to manage the beginning of his comeback. We feel very confident with our goaltending right now.


Video: Feb 13: Coach Practice Media


4. Previous meeting

These two teams squared off on 3 occasions in November and will meet for the second time this month to wrap up their season series. Not going to say much about the February 4th meeting between these two other than it happened.

Check out the full highlights from that game below if you dare...

Video: OTT Recap: Senators shut down by Sabres, 4-0


5. At the game

It's Valentine's Day so grab your better half and come spend a lovely evening with the Sens. Still some spots available so raise your Valentine's game this year.

Can't make it to CTC tonight? Catch all the action on TSN5 and RDS.

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