|Forward Milan Michalek is likely to be back in the lineup when the Senators face off against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place (Getty Images).
Now it appears to be Milan Michalek
's turn to give his teammates another jolt of offence.
The Senators forward confirmed earlier today that he is likely to be in the lineup when Ottawa faces off against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Michalek has been sidelined since Jan. 7 with a concussion suffered on a hit by Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green.
"I feel good now," Michalek said after taking an optional skate with some his teammates. "We'll see tomorrow morning how I feel but yesterday and today, I skated and it felt really good.
"Hopefully, I'll play tomorrow and it will be fine."
Michalek, who suffered two previous concussions while with the San Jose Sharks – the last one happened two years ago – expected he'd be sidelined for two weeks, based on his previous experiences. That's also why he wasn't concerned that it might potentially affect his participation in the Vancouver Olympics for the Czech Republic.
"I knew it wasn't that bad and I was going to be back in two weeks," he said. "That's what happened, so I'm not really worried about the Olympics."
And now, with their second-leading goal scorer (with 16) on the verge of returning, the Senators have a little less to be concerned about up front. No. 1 centre Jason Spezza
also could be back within a week, adding another piece of good news to the mix.
Then again, given how stingy the Senators have been defensively lately, offence hasn't been quite as much of an issue. They've run off four straight wins over the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, outscoring that high-end group by a combined 15-4 in the process.
"I feel good now. We'll see tomorrow morning how I feel but yesterday and today, I skated and it felt really good. Hopefully, I'll play tomorrow and it will be fine." - Milan Michalek
Binghamton callup Mike Brodeur turned in a pair of strong appearances – including his first career National Hockey League shutout against the Blueshirts – then Brian Elliott followed that up with some rock-solid goaltending of his own. He stopped 51-of-53 shots he faced in back-to-back wins over the Bruins and Hawks.
"It feels good," admitted Elliott, who struggled along with the rest of his teammates during a five-game losing streak that ended with the victory over the Rangers. "You don't want to focus on it too much. You've got to look ahead to the next game and the guys are all doing that.
"We've just got to focus on the next game at hand, no matter what happened in the previous game. I think if we do that, we'll keep it going here."
While Senators head coach Cory Clouston likes what he's getting from his goaltenders these days, he also reserves plenty of credit for the players in front of them.
"I think it’s been a team effort," said Clouston. "For the most part, we’ve played well defensively. We haven’t given up a lot of opportunities. We gave up too many shots (30) against Chicago) but I think Brian would agree that he was able to see most of them. If there were rebounds, I’d say 90 per cent of the time we were the first ones to that loose puck and we cleared rebounds very well.
"It’s a team effort but it does start with goaltending. They’ve given us a lot of confidence and a couple of saves at the right times. They haven’t allowed the opposition to get that early lead and get the momentum against us."
While the Blues, on paper, seem to be a serious notch below the likes of the Bruins and Hawks, forward Nick Foligno
promises there will be no emotional letdown on Thursday night.
"We’re only going to get better when we get (more) bodies back. Guys have done a great job stepping in while we’ve had some injuries and played really well. So that’s encouraging for us, to hopefully build on what we’ve been doing and get better." - Daniel Alfredsson
"That's another job and we need to get that done," he said. "We’re going to work twice as hard and make sure we’re coming out with a great effort, because it’s easy to sit back. But that’s where real professionalism comes in, when you’re working twice as hard to get that win.
"We know that we need these wins going forward. We want to be in a good spot come the Olympic break and these wins at home, especially, we need them and I think guys are looking forward to that game tomorrow."
As the Senators lineup approaches full health, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
sees even more to look forward to in the weeks ahead.
"We’re only going to get better when we get (more) bodies back," he said. "Guys have done a great job stepping in while we’ve had some injuries and played really well. So that’s encouraging for us, to hopefully build on what we’ve been doing and get better."Around the boards
With Michalek back in, the shipping of rookie forward Zack Smith
back to Binghamton would seem a likely move. Not so fast, said Clouston, who likes the physical game – not to mention a pair of key goals – that the Saskatchewan native has brought to the lineup. "He’s making it very tough for us to make decisions and that’s what we need him to do," said Clouston ... Fewer than 3,500 tickets
remain for the game against the Blues. It's also a Metro Game Night, with Family 4 Packs
(including four tickets, four hotdogs and four drinks) available for $99.