Get set for tonight's 7:30 p.m. start at Canadian Tire Centre against the Florida Panthers with a look at the Sens' projected line-up, starting goalie and more...
Just one change to tonight's line-up against the Panthers and that will see Rudolfs Balcers make his season debut with the Senators. Balcers was excellent in the preseason this year and had all but locked down a spot to start the season in the NHL before suffering a lower body injury against the Canucks. After recovering, Balcers was assigned to Belleville where he was on an absolute tear before his recall, recording 24 points (8G, 16A) in 18 GP.
"It took me awhile to get going after the injury ," said Balcers. "But I've been playing hard, feeling good and I'm happy to be up here now."
Video: Jan. 2 | Rudolfs Balcers
Sens head coach D.J. Smith also tweaked his forward lines a little and has paired Brady Tkachuk and Anthony Duclair together in hopes of sparking some offence while Colin White moves back to the middle and will centre a line Balcers and Tyler Ennis tonight.
On defence, it appeared that Nikita Zaitsev would be ready to return from his injury tonight but some soreness has delayed it until at least Saturday. The Sens have been dealing with a rash of injuries on the blueline (more on that below) so getting Zaitsev back in the very near future could start to ease the pressure on Thomas Chabot and young defenders like Erik Brannstrom, Andreas Englund and Christian Jaros who have been recalled from Belleville.
Here's how the lines and pairings looked at today's morning skate:
Tkachuk - Tierney - Duclair
Paul - Pageau - C. Brown
Balcers - White - Ennis
Namestnikov - Anisimov - Sabourin
Chabot - Goloubef
Englund - Brannstrom
Craig Anderson (6-8-1) gets the call in net for the Sens' first game of 2020 and looks to bounce back after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils on Dec. 29th. Anderson has battled injuries in the first half of the season and only started 4 games in December so hopefully tonight marks the beginning of a string of games for the veteran goaltender.
Following Wednesday's team practice at Canadian Tire Centre, Smith spoke about the impact of missing three veteran defencemen over the last month and how that's impacted his team's ability to reduce the amount of shots and chances they give up.
"One thing in the NHL, defence and centre are two of the harder positions to learn as a young guy," said Smith after yesterday's practice. "You need some older guys back there that can steady the game a little bit."
With Zaitsev's return pushed to this weekend at the earliest, the Sens head coach shared rough timelines for the rest of his walking wounded.
"DeMelo is still a bit away, Hainsey is probably not going to play for maybe the next week and Zaitsev is the closest," shared the coach. "Nilsson is skating and seeing some pucks so we're optimistic there but I still think he needs a little bit more time."
Where to watch
It's a 7:30 p.m. start at Canadian Tire Centre and here's all the ways you can catch the Sens and Panthers tonight...
BROADCAST: TSN5, RDS2
RADIO: TSN 1200, 94,5 Unique FM
Can't make it to the rink? Grab some friends and head on over to our Molson Canadian Watch Party at the The Atlantic (36 McDougall St W. Alexandria, ON) where they'll be serving up 20 oz pints of Molson Canadian for just $6.95 (tax included) and giving out some sweet swag and prizes during the game.
To find out where our next watch party will be and specials you can enjoy, visit the full schedule click here.