Before the puck drops in Toronto tonight at 7:30 p.m. we've got a quick chat with rookie Rudolfs Balcers, an injury update from the GM and more.
Balcers fitting in
With 9 games under his belt in 2019, Rudolfs Balcers appears to be finding his stride in the NHL with the Senators. The 21-year-old winger made his NHL debut on January 5th against the Minnesota Wild and after a brief stint back in the American Hockey League over the All-Star break, he finds himself back with the big club.
"Since I got called up, I've found that I can play a little bit more of that 'hard game'," said Balcers about his transition to the National Hockey League. "So when I went back to Belleville and played two games there, I tried to do the same things I was doing in the NHL: be first on the puck, forecheck hard and not pass up any shooting opportunities."
"I wasn't sure if I was coming back after the Bye Week," he continued. "But once they called and said that I was coming back up, I was really happy."
Video: CAR@OTT: Balcers beats Mrazek for first career goal
Sens head coach Guy Boucher has praised Balcers contributions as of late but shared that it can be difficult to increase the rookie's ice-time since he isn't a regular on either special teams unit.
"You can't ask for too much," Balcers said about his role with the Senators. "I'm very happy with the ice-time that I get and I try to make the most of it every game. I just want to show that I can be reliable, consistent and generate things on every shift."
Balcers will have another opportunity to showcase his skills tonight against the Maple Leafs and while he's played in Toronto before with the Sens' AHL-affiliate, he's excited at the chance to do so again on the biggest stage.
"Toronto is a fun place to play," he shared. "Now I get the chance to play there in the NHL against a really good team and we need to get a win so I'm pretty excited for the challenge."
Sens general manager Pierre Dorion met with the media yesterday in Ottawa to share a few injury updates on some players that are progressing towards returns.
"Christian Jaros is probably 99% that he won't play against Toronto," said Dorion. "There's an outside chance he could return against Anaheim and Winnipeg but should be back against Carolina. He has a lower-body injury but everything is intact and good."
Jaros was injured on Saturday against the Red Wings after being driven into the boards awkwardly and briefly returned the next shift before sitting out the entire third period. He has officially been ruled out for tonight's game (more on that below), but could return as early as tomorrow with Saturday's game against Winnipeg looking more likely.
"Mikkel Boedker has a 'mid-body" injury and he's out week-to-week," Dorion said."While Mike Condon has been taking shots this week and sliding on his pads. He had a really good day on Monday but was a bit sore yesterday. We are hopeful that he will be playing hockey in March."
With Jaros and Boedker out for tonight's game, the Sens recalled Jack Rodewald and Cody Goloubef from Belleville earlier today. Sens head coach Guy Boucher met with the media this morning and shared a few thoughts on how they could impact his line-up tonight against the Maple Leafs.
"Rodewald will be in so we'll go with 12 and 6," said Boucher. "We've got Goloubef here as a back-up if something happens on defence."
Rodewald, who currently sits second in scoring for Belleville this year, has appeared in 8 games for the Senators over the past two seasons and Boucher spoke a little bit about what the 24-year-old forward brings to the table.
"He's a typical fourth line, hard-working, first on puck player," said the coach. "I think he would have the attributes to play on the penalty kill and I know he does down in Belleville. When he practices with us he's been good at it so if he was here long-term that's probably something we'd look at doing with him."
Video: Sens vs. Leafs - Coach Pre-game
Here's a look at the Sens' projected line-up tonight:
Dzingel - Duchene - Ryan
Tkachuk - White - Stone
Smith - Pageau - Paajarvi
Rodewald - Tierney - Balcers
Chabot - DeMelo
Lajoie - Ceci
Borowiecki - Harpur
Craig Anderson (14-16-3) gets the start in goal against the Maple Leafs tonight and looks to snap out of his 4-game losing skid. Since returning from a concussion on January 19th, Anderson's save percentage (.913%) and goals against (2.75) have both been up on his season average but he hasn't had much in the way of goal support with his teammates scoring just 4 goals over his last 3 starts.
Anderson has historically been very good against the Maple Leafs and hold a record of 13-6-3 with the Senators and is 5-2-2 in his last 10 starts in Toronto.
Where to Watch
It's a 7:30 p.m. scheduled start tonight in Toronto and if you're looking for a great spot to catch the game be sure to head out to Jonny Canuck's where they'll be serving up 25% off Molson Canadian all night long.