|The Senators are hopeful rugged defenceman Anton Volchenkov will return to the lineup as soon as Saturday, when they face the Bruins in Boston to open up a five-game road trip (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
The Ottawa Senators blue-line brigade is about to assemble into a new formation as it marches toward the longest road trip of the season.
When the Senators arrived in Boston later Friday to begin a five-game journey that will eventually take them to California and Arizona, they were greeted by rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson
, who has been recalled from the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. Headed back to the farm is blueliner Brian Lee after a nine-game stint with the big club.
Karlsson started the season in Ottawa but was sent down to Binghamton exactly a month ago to further hone his game. Mission accomplished, Senators head coach Cory Clouston said earlier today after Karlsson's recall was announced. The 19-year-old Swedish blueliner has produced 11 assists in 12 games, including three in the B-Sens' 7-0 rout of the Adirondack Phantoms on Thursday night.
"He’s gone down there and played a big role, a lot more minutes than he was playing up here," said Clouston after the Senators' practice wrapped up at Scotiabank Place. "The one aspect (of his game) that we really wanted him to work on was (showing) more physical play. Obviously, he’s talented and he’s shown that with 11 points in 12 games.
"He’s killed some penalties, so he’s really tried to balance his game out and hopefully, he can bring that up here and move forward with that."
After Saturday's pre-game skate, Karlsson admitted "I was hoping every day I would get called up (from Binghamton) but I was surprised" to get the news on Friday. The Swedish defenceman believes his 12-game stint with the B-Sens "helped me with my game."
"I tried to work hard down there every day and work on a few things I needed to work on," he added. "It was a good thing for me to go down there. I got a lot of ice time and I got to play in a lot of important situations.
"Now I’ve just got to work hard on every shift and make good decisions with the puck and move the puck fast and also play well without the puck. The most important thing is to make good decisions up here."
While Karlsson will play against the Boston Bruins on Saturday at TD Bank Garden, Clouston said it's still a wait-and-see on rugged blueliner Anton Volchenkov. The hard-hitting Russian is itching to end his 13-game absence from the Senators lineup but isn't ready just yet to suggest it'll happen tomorrow in Beantown.
"It's almost ready," Volchenkov said of the right elbow he injured back on Oct. 28 against the Florida Panthers. "It's day-to-day, but we'll see."
The Senators and Bruins currently share top spot in the Northeast Division, but the Senators (13-7-3) hold the edge in wins and two games in hand on Boston (12-8-5), which dropped at 2-1 shootout decision to the New Jersey Devils at home this afternoon. After Saturday, it's off to the West Coast for games in San Jose (Dec. 1), Los Angeles (Dec. 3), Phoenix (Dec. 5) and Anaheim (Dec. 6).
"He’s gone down there and played a big role, a lot more minutes than he was playing up here. The one aspect (of his game) that we really wanted him to work on was (showing) more physical play. Obviously, he’s talented and he’s shown that with 11 points in 12 games. He’s killed some penalties, so he’s really tried to balance his game out and hopefully, he can bring that up here and move forward with that." - Cory Clouston
While the Senators have produced the most home points (10-3-3, 23 points) of any team in the National Hockey League – they're currently riding a five-game winning streak at Scotiabank Place – Ottawa is just 3-4-0 on the road so far this season.
"We haven't been on the road very much," said forward Jonathan Cheechoo, who's anxiously awaiting Tuesday's return to his former NHL home in San Jose. "We've showed we can win at home, but now we have to prove we can do the same thing on the road. If we keep things simple and play a solid game, I think we should do fairly well.
"I don't think it's going to make or break us at this point in the season, but I think it'll put us in a better position."
Clouston said more of what the Senators showed in grinding out a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night would serve them well on the road.
"It doesn’t matter where you play," he said. "Our game can’t change. (Thursday) night was actually like a good road game for us. It was a tight defensive game and a fairly physical game. Specialty teams played a role and we kept things simple for the most part. We’ve just got to continue to play the way we’re playing. It doesn’t matter where we are."Around the boards
Captain Daniel Alfredsson
, centre Jason Spezza
and defenceman Alex Picard skipped practice today but Clouston said all are expected to be in the lineup against the Bruins ... Clouston said "there's a possibility" centre Mike Fisher (upper body), who's missed the last two games, could suit up against the Bruins. "He felt much better last night," said Clouston. "We'll see how tomorrow morning goes." ... Clouston on what Lee needs to show in Binghamton: "I think he's lost his game a little bit as of late. The last three or four games, he looked a little indecisive, (like he was) playing not to make a mistake. He's got to go down there and recapture his game, play bigger minutes, play more roles and be a dominant defenceman down there." ... The Senators won't have to contend with rugged Bruins forward Milan Lucic. He sprained his left ankle against the Devils today and is out for four weeks.