After a succesful homestand, the Sens are back on the road tonight to face a team that for whatever reason the Sens just cant seem to beat in the Washington Capitals. Now had you told me at the start of the year that on January 15 2008, Ottawa would be playing Washington for the 4th time and at that point of the season are 0-3 against having been out-scored 18-10 through those first 3 games, I would have told you to lay off whatever it is you have been smoking.
When you really look at the stats between thses 2 teams, they are basically ridiculous when you consider im talking about 1st place OTTAWA VS 13th place WASHINGTON, But that all being said it allways seems like good teams tend to have unusual problems with lower end teams, look at Chicago and Detroit, if im not mistaken Detroit just finally beat Chicago for the first time in 5 tries a couple weeks back.
Back to our game, good news is it looks like Jason Spezza and Patrick Eaves will both be playing tonight, Eaves returning after missing 24 games with a seperated shoulder, and Spezza who was a maybe after getting flattened in the game against the Islanders Sunday. The bad news, is of course Dany Heatley being out 4-6 weeks, this is a gigantic hole that basically cant be filled by any 1 player on this team, but it is a hole that in my opinion can be filled by several players who need to elevate there play (im looking at you Vermette,Kelly, Donovan and Mccamond).
This is the time when we need to see our secondary scorers really pick up there play, we know what we will get out of Spezza, Alfie and Fisher on a nightly basis, but it just seems like a lot of our secondary has been way to quiet the last couple of months, especially Vermette, I really expected a lot more out of him to this point of the season and it just seems like its the same thing every year with this guy, which makes me think he may be someone that may be gone before the end of this year. Vermette is a player that could draw some major interest from other teams and possibly help land us the Top 6 Forward or Top 4 physical Dman that we need. Other players that need to pick it up are as I said Chris Kelly, who has shown is capable of more than the 19 points he has put up to date, Donovan should be able to produce more with his speed and grit in the corners, and Mcammond, who is one of my favorite players on the team, only has 11 points so far this year, now this has to do with the fact that he missed 10 games and then it took him a couple more to get back into the groove, but mostly I think he is just plain being under-used by paddock, why is Robitaille up on the top line when I think Mcammond with his speed and defensive awareness is a much better fit, relegating him to 4th line duties i think is an error on Paddocks part.
So here is how I would put the lines together tonight:
Alfie - Spezza - Eaves
Schubert - Fisher - Neil
Donovan - Kelly - Vermette
Mcgratton - Bass - Robitaille
I know these combo's probably wont happen, but I like Eaves on the top line with Alfie and Spezza, and I really liked how Fisher,Neil and Schubert played the other night, tons of crash bang, lots of speed, and Fisher has finally emerged as the legitamite goal scoring threat that we all knew he could be. Donovan, Kelly and Vermette just have Lethal speed together and have so far played solid. and the 4th line is the 4th, good for some energy, I like what Bass has brought to the club and they can be out there to put in there 2 minutes of game time.
Overall tonight I would look for Sens to really try to get this washington monkey off there back, they are too talented a team to get spanked 4 games in a row against a 13th place squad. Im actually glad emery is getting the start tonight as Gerber looked horrible in his last games against the Caps and I think the team is starting to play harder for Emery now then they were at the beginning of the year.