The Ottawa Senators’ depth is about to get another big test.
Forward Cory Stillman, who suffered a bruised leg during Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, didn’t practice with the team Friday morning at Scotiabank Place. He won’t be in the lineup Saturday, when the Senators face off against the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden (1 p.m., no TV, Team 1200).
“I’ve got a bruise. Nothing serious,” said Stillman, who hopes he’ll be ready to return to the ice on Monday. “I’ll take today off, probably take tomorrow off and we'll see what happens at the start of the week.”
|Rookie Jesse Winchester (left) could make his NHL debut tomorrow in Boston on a line with Mike Fisher. |
The Senators are already missing versatile forward Chris Kelly, who suffered a fracture in his lower left leg last weekend and isn’t expected back until the playoffs.
Stillman’s absence could mean Jesse Winchester
, signed by the Senators on Monday as a free agent out of Colgate University, will make his National Hockey League debut tomorrow.
“I’m pretty excited,” Winchester, 24, of Long Sault, Ont., said about the potential opportunity. “I’m sure I’ll be nervous. I think everybody’s nervous for their first (NHL) game. It would be wrong if you weren’t. I’ll have fun with it, work as hard as I possibly can and see where I go from there.”
Winchester skated on a line with Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette during practice today.
Senators head coach/general manager Bryan Murray suggested that’s where Winchester might slot in against the Bruins.
“He’s got good hands and a good head,” said Murray. “The speed of the game will be different for him, the size of the players will be different for him. (We want him to) just compete, and we know he’ll do that.
“Don’t be too much in awe. Just go out and play the way he’s capable of playing. He’s got great hands and, given a chance in the offensive zone, hopefully he can create a few things for us.”
The Senators might also be without veteran defenceman Wade Redden for another game, though he took part in the full practice today and later said there's a chance he might take the pre-game warmup in Boston to see if he may be good to go.
Redden’s injury allowed the Senators to break in rookie defenceman Brian Lee – a callup from the Binghamton Senators – and Murray has already indicated he’s staying in the lineup for the rest of the season.
“Brian’s played really well in both games,” captain Daniel Alfredsson
said when asked about the Senators’ new infusion of youth. “I’ve seen Jesse a little bit here in practice and he looks pretty good. It’ll be interesting to see what he can bring as well.”
In the wake of Thursday’s loss, the Senators still need three points to lock up a playoff berth for the 11th straight season. It remains anybody’s guess where they’ll finish – Ottawa currently stands fourth in the Eastern Conference with 92 points, but that’s only one better than the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, and four in front of the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Needless to say, tomorrow’s matchup in Beantown is a big one.
“It’s going to be an intense game,” said Alfredsson. “They’re four points behind us and (ninth-place) Washington is right on their heels. We want to make sure we get a couple of points to secure our playoff spot… They play very well defensively and don’t give you much, so you’ve got to play smart.”
And, the Senators acknowledged again Friday, they’ve got to play better with a third-period lead. Less than 24 hours later, it was clear the Senators were still feeling the sting of Thursday’s loss to the Sabres. Ottawa allowed the tying goal with 1:26 to play and couldn’t prevail in the shootout.
“You blow those leads and that’s why we’re a .500 hockey club (since Jan. 1), and .500 doesn’t cut it in the playoffs,” said centre Jason Spezza
. “We’ve got to find a way to hold these leads… We get under five minutes to go with a lead, we’ve done our job up to that point and we’ve got to make sure we finish it off.”