Senators aim to keep building on good vibrations
Trip to Carolina offers opportunity tonight to extend winning streak to three games
Momentum can be an elusive thing.
Now that the Ottawa Senators have a little bit of it going for them, they're not exactly anxious to let go of the good vibrations generated by a back-to-back victories against the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Place to end last week.
"Winning has a funny way of making everybody feel good," veteran defenceman Chris Phillips said in advance of tonight's road contest against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.. "Practice is more fun and coming to the rink is more fun. We want to use that but at the same time, we can’t be loose and expect to win.
"What’s done is done and you try to repeat everything that we did well. We still have to strengthen up a few areas and with a strong work ethic, (we can) come out with two points."
While the Senators (3-5-0) haven't won in Raleigh since Dec. 12, 2007 — a skid of seven games, during which they were outscored 28-9 — head coach Paul MacLean believes his team can succeed by replicating the formula that produced the two home wins. Included was the 4-3 triumph over Columbus, courtesy of two goals in the game's final 36 seconds.
"We want to come out and have a good road game," MacLean said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "We want to take our home game (success) and the patience we played with at home and the solid NHL game we played at home ... and bring that here on the road.
"It's harder to do on the road but that's our expectation, to come here and do it again."
Craig Anderson, who's 2-0-2 lifetime against the Hurricanes, gets the start in goal for Ottawa tonight.
Zibanejad decision looming for Senators
Swedish rookie centre Mika Zibanejad suits up for his ninth National Hockey League game tonight in Raleigh. And that means decision time has arrived for the prized 18-year-old prospect as it pertains to his immediate future.
The Senators must now decide whether to keep their top pick (sixth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa for the balance of the season — playing his 10th game will trigger his entry-level deal — or return him to Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League, where he still has one year left on his contract. It's anything but an easy call for Sens general manager Bryan Murray, who admits Zibanejad is feeling the pressure of it all.
"It’s all kind of building up on him," Murray said of the moment of truth for Zibanejad. "We want to be fair. Paul loves him in his own end — he thinks defensively, he does a good job — but with the puck, he hasn’t done as much as we suspect he will in the future.
"I don’t know that he’s absolutely NHL ready at the moment. But I believe this of young people, though — as they play games, they get better, they get more comfortable, they get more confidence. They get a position on the team that allows them to play to the level they want to play at."
And Murray believes that once the pressure of the nine-game deadline is off, Zibanejad should elevate his game. But the decision will be made with his long-term future in mind.
"The decision is (about) what’s best for him, not what’s best for us, at this very moment," Murray said Monday before the Senators headed to Raleigh. "You can only speculate, but you have to believe as young players play games and get a little more in tune with everything that goes on, that they get better. He’s a big guy. He’s a good skater ... as he gets more comfortable going forward and sees that there’s security in being here, he probably would get better.
"The bottom line is, we want to do what’s right for him. As the week progresses, we will have to make the call."
Around the boards
With captain Daniel Alfredsson at home resting an ailing right flexor, Kaspars Daugavins enters the lineup as a callup from the Binghamton Senators. He'll start the game on a line with Zibanejad and Nick Foligno. The rest of the Ottawa lines during the pre-game skate: Colin Greening-Jason Spezza-Milan Michalek, Erik Condra-Zack Smith-Chris Neil and Zenon Konopka-Stephane Da Costa-Jesse Winchester ... The defence pairings: Chris Phillips-David Rundblad, Sergei Gonchar-Jared Cowen and Filip Kuba-Erik Karlsson ... Brian Lee is the odd man out on the blue line and is tonight's healthy scratch ... The Senators return home to face the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).