Senators' depth gets early test
Injuries making it tougher for team to build front-line chemistry
|Veteran forward Shean Donovan is being inserted into the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Now, with a couple of centres bumped to the sidelines by injuries, the process has run into an early-season obstacle of sorts. So it is that head coach Cory Clouston is faced with a bit of tinkering to his lineup heading into Tuesday night's matchup with the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).
With Ryan Shannon suffering an undisclosed injury during the third period of Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Rangers in New York, the Senators are down two pivot men in their regular lineup (Jesse Winchester is still out with a right knee injury). That's meant a shift of Mike Fisher back to the second-line centre position between Alex Kovalev and Nick Foligno, with rookie Peter Regin now being flanked by Jonathan Cheechoo and Chris Neil.
"With (Winchester) missing up the middle and Shannon out, that definitely leaves a bit of a void at centre and adjustments to the lines, for sure," Clouston said after the Senators' practice earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. "Same with the power play. (Shannon) played the back end on the power play, so we're forced to change a few things there."
All of which means the healthy hands on deck need to bear down a little more around the net against the Leafs, who are 0-1-1 in their first two starts but produced four goals in each outing. Clouston noted the Senators "outchanced" the Rangers 17-6 in 5-on-5 situations Saturday but couldn't put nearly enough pucks behind New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
"Usually, when you have 17 (scoring) opportunities 5-on-5, you score more than two goals," said Clouston. "We've just got to be a little more poised and a little more patient and make the other team's goaltender work a bit harder."
Alex Kovalev, one of four new forwards still being worked into the mix, also subscribes to that theory. One game, he added, is far too soon to make any rash judgments.
"It's the beginning of the season," he said. "We looked exactly like a team that was really anxious and so happy to start the season again because the summer was so long. The harder you try, the worse it gets and that's exactly what happened.
"Sometimes, you have to do (only) so much to be successful. We just have to have good timing and good positioning ... sometimes, it takes a game or two to get that going and then everything will fall into place. All of a sudden, you see the lines clicking and it looks like they've been playing together for awhile."
"I think we were a little bit hesitant at times (on Saturday), but we got better as the game went along as well," he said. "It's nothing that's going to happen overnight. It's a process. I like the feeling we have in the room and in practices, it's been good. Now we're looking forward to playing another game.
"As soon as we get some momentum, (the goals) are going to come, I'm sure."
Added Foligno: "It was our first game of the year and we were getting the rust off. We went a week without games. Now I think the guys are raring to go for sure on Tuesday night. It's going to be a lot of fun and I think we're going to bring a better game and get more scoring chances."
Around the boards
When Cheechoo was dealt to the Senators from the San Jose Sharks last month, it brought the majority of his games much closer to his remote northern Ontario hometown of Moose Factory. He's expecting some family to make the trip to Toronto for Tuesday night's game. "My dad for sure, probably my mom and brother and sister, too," he said. "It's the closest place to my home, here and (Toronto)." ... Winchester "skated hard" on his own today, Clouston said, and could join his teammates at practices "in a couple of days" ... The Senators start a run of four straight home games on Thursday, when John Tavares and the New York Islanders visit Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).