The Senators are officially back as they kick off the 2019-20 season tonight against the Maple Leafs. Get set for our 7 p.m. puck drop in Toronto with the latest from Connor Brown, Tyler Ennis, the projected line-up and more…
Brown back in Toronto
It's been a whirlwind past few months for Connor Brown. The 25-year-old was acquired by the Senators from the Maple Leafs in a multi-player trade on July 1st and in a nice little coincidence, Brown will play his first game with the Sens against his former team.
"It'll be special. Obviously, Toronto has been a home to me and I got to play for my hometown team," said Brown. "A lot of good memories here so it'll be cool being back. It'll be a little weird being on the other side but I'm very excited."
Brown is one of four players (Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey and Tyler Ennis) on the Senators this season that played for the Maple Leafs in 2018-19, along with Sens head coach D.J. Smith who was an assistant coach in Toronto the past 4 years, and he believes the sheer volume of returns tonight should help manage their emotions.
"It does take the pressure off a little," he said. "But it'll be more fun than anything to play against my old buddies. I made a lot of good friendships here and good memories."
Brown's cheering section also seems to have defected Leafs Nation following his move to Ottawa. The Toronto-native shared that his family and friends were quick to switch sides in the Battle of Ontario after he was acquired by the Senators.
"They're pretty loyal," Brown said with a smile. "They switched over to being Ottawa fans right away. I'm sure they'll be cheering for the red and black tonight."
Ennis eyes expanded role with Senators
While Brown, Zaitsev, Hainsey and Smith all prepare to return to face their former squad, where they each had multiple seasons in Toronto, Ennis shared that his focus is primarily on starting the season off strong with the Senators.
"I just think of it as the first game of the season," he said. "It's an important game for us to set the tone and carry over what we've been building throughout the pre-season. It's always fun to play your old team but the game is most important because it's Game #1 of the season."
For the third consecutive season, Ennis will start the year with a different organization but he hopes his experience could lead to a more prominent role for a young Senators group.
"I'm excited," said Ennis about the possibility of a bigger role in Ottawa. "I'm excited just to be a part of this team and to grow along with everyone else on this club."
Just one piece of line-up news to confirm today and that's on the wing where Filip Chlapik is expected to skate with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Scott Sabourin on the Sens' fourth line. The coach praised Pageau's ability to "take care" of the inexperienced wingers during his media availability yesterday and to help them get accustomed to the NHL game.
Smith also re-iterated this morning that he expects his team to deliver a more consistent effort this season and hopes to instill a strong work ethic from Game #1.
"We have to get better every day," said Smith. "Our identity is how hard we work and we've done that through exhibition and we've done that in practice."
Here's a look at the Sens' projected line-up for tonight:
Tkachuk - White - Brown
Duclair - Tierney - Ryan
Ennis - Anisimov - Batherson
Chlapik - Pageau - Sabourin
Chabot - Zaitsev
Brannstrom - Hainsey
Borowiecki - DeMelo
After a solid showing in the pre-season, Craig Anderson (0-0-0) gets the start in net tonight for the Senators. Anderson backstopped a 4-3 win in the Sens' second exhibition game against the Maple Leafs last month where he turned aside 20 of the 21 shots he faced through two periods of work.
"I think I've communicated that we're going to share a lot of the starts but I just feel Andy was a bit better in training camp and in exhibition," said Smith on his decision to start Anderson in Game #1. "He's an experienced guy on the road and I think it's just better for our guys."
Anders Nilsson will back him this evening.
Where to Watch
Puck drop is set for a little after 7 p.m. tonight at Scotiabank Arena and you can catch all the action live on Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360 and TVAS as well as on the radio on TSN 1200 with Dean and Gord.
Opening home series
The Sens return to Canadian Tire on Saturday night where they'll host their home opener against the New York Rangers. Don't miss that game or the rest of the 4-game home stand against the Blues. Lightning and Wild as part of the Senators' Home Opening Series. Grab your tickets here and we'll see you at the rink!