12:15 With the NFL Conference Championships upon us on Sunday, today's Gameday Goodie talks with Sens captain and hardcore football fan Jason Spezza about what he thinks is in store for Sunday's games.
Take a look...
12:05 PM: Here are today's projected lineups for the Sens and Rangers.
Michalek - Zibanejad - Conacher
MacArthur - Turris - Ryan
Greening - Spezza - Stone
Condra - Smith - Neil
Cowen - Karlsson
Phillips - Ceci
Methot - Gryba
New York Rangers
Kreider - Stepan - Nash
Hagelin - Richards - Callahan
Pouliot - Brassard - Zuccarello
Boyle - Moore - Carcillo
McDonagh - Girardi
Staal - Stralman
Moore - Del Zotto
11:55 AM: Here's what Paul MacLean had to say ahead of today's game.
On the lineup:
On if the playoff race can be a psychological lift:
Today you could, then they play the games tomorrow night and you could be back where you were before, hence wait until game 82 and see where you are. I think right now we've played our way into a position where we can at least talk about it and we can see ourselves there so I think that's more of a motivator moving forward than on a day-by-day basis of where you are because it changes so radically with such an amount of teams that are still in there. The fact that we're in there and we can see ourselves in there is a long way from where we were.
On the Rangers under Vigneault vs. Tortorella:
They're still a very good team. I think their team speed is probably a little bit better with the addition of Kreider playing every game and Hagelin playing every game. I don't think they played every game in the past for the Rangers but those are young players who are starting to find their way in the league. I don't think they're as focused on the shot blocking mentality — not that they don't block shots anymore — I don't think that's their primary defensive code at this point under Vigneault. I think Alain plays a much more up-tempo and offensive type of game historically than John plays, but they've still got Henrik Lundqvist in the net, they've got McDonagh and Girardi, they're a good team, they've got Rick Nash who's playing well, Brad Richards is playing well, Zuccarello is playing well. They've added to their team speed and they're a very dangerous opponent.
On what he has learned about Bobby Ryan:
I knew that Bobby could score and he kind of played behind Teemu Selanne, Getzlaf, Perry and whatnot in Anaheim the time I was in Detroit watching him, but you knew he was a dangerous player and he could score if you didn't pay attention to him. The things we've learned about him coming here is his ability to pass the puck and his vision with the puck has been something we didn't always see that has been impressive to us. His play without the puck and his willingness to play without the puck and to be physical are other traits that we thought potentially we could have some issues with him but at this point in time we haven't had any.
On if the Olympic disappointment has dissipated:
I think it has. All of these players that are good players realize that these teams that they are picking are hard to pick. There's a lot of good players that could qualify for them and yes he qualified for it four years ago, this year he doesn't. I think he recognizes and respects the fact that it's a difficult decision for them to make and there are a lot of players that no matter which country you look at, the top contending teams anyway, everyone can say that there's one or two guys that, "why isn't he on the team?" This year Bobby happens to be one of those guys.
On Neil and his history vs. New York:
I'm not sure what his history is but we know that he plays well against them. He has scored some big goals against them for us and we just want him to come in and be Chris Neil. When he's Chris Neil he's effective, he's physical, he plays a simple game and he gets in on the forecheck.
On the effect of the Olympics on the Sens:
It gives us a chance to get rested. We only have two people that are going to be participants in the Olympic games and this run leading to the Olympic break is compacted and it's going to be intense. I think these next 12 or 11 games everyone has before the break, it seems every broadcast you look at every coach is focusing on these amount of games. You only have 20 something games when they come back and it's hard to mount any kind of a recovery or race or get into the race if you're not in it by then. There's going to be a lot of hockey and a lot of short benches in the next 10 games and I think the rest is going to be good. For us, we feel if we get ourselves into a good spot we're going to be well rested coming out of it.
10:30 AM: Mark Stone offers up his thoughts on his game two weeks after his recall and prior to playing the team he played in his NHL debut.
On if playing the Rangers is more special after his NY debut:
I think it means a little bit more but at the same time it's just another game, especially where I'm at in my career. I haven't played a whole lot of hockey games in the NHL so I'm just trying to take it game by game.
On his comfort level:
I feel way more comfortable, I'm getting chances every night. Obviously I'd like them to go in but at the same time if I wasn't getting chances I'd be sitting here a lot more worried. I do realize I need to capitalize on scoring chances.
On playing with Spezza:
It's great, he's a smart hockey player. He's going to make plays, I just try not to hold on to the puck too long. If I can find him open down low, he's got such a big body, such a long reach, he can shoo off defenders and if I get open in the slot he finds you nightly it seems like. Almost every shift you're getting chances.
On the chemistry of the line:
I think we're playing well, we're just not getting the results right now. It's kind of frustrating sometimes when you feel like you're playing well, you're getting chances and it isn't going in for you, but at the same time you need to just keep going, keep playing the way I play and not change too much.
On if he's close to breaking out:
Yeah, I feel like that first one was kind of a luckier goal than anything and I'm getting these high, grade-A chances and I know I need to start scoring on them. I feel like if I can just get one to kind of lighten it up a bit I can finally start to work and score on a consistent basis.
On his ability to force turnovers:
It has been a game of mine for a while. I've obviously been criticised for skating so I had to learn to get the puck in other ways. Just reading where the guy is going to go and getting good angles is such an easy thing — not easy but an easier thing for me than others by just being able to read where he's going.
10:00 AM: The Ottawa Senators will look to get back in the win column this afternoon when they play host to the New York Rangers.
The Senators are coming off of a difficult overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Despite carrying the play in the early stages of the game, the Sens ultimately found themselves down 3-0 early on. However, their hard work slowly paid off as they wound up taking a 4-3 lead in the second before ultimately dropping the 5-4 decision in OT. The Sens got goals from Clarke MacArthur, Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris in the loss.
The Rangers, not unlike the Senators, have come on as of late and played their way into a playoff position after a slow start to their season with a mark of 7-2-1 over their last 10 to push their overall record to 25-21-3. So far they have been a quality opponent away from home with a record of 14-10-0.
Sens head coach Paul MacLean will meet with the media at 11:30 AM and I'll have plenty of updates to follow including, but not limited to, lineup changes, players' thoughts on tonight's game, Sens TV updates, Instagram goodness and more.
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