Senators hoping Butler can ignite stagnant attack
After three games on sidelines, second-year winger getting renewed opportunity
|Bobby Butler is getting what he calls "a big opportunity" to regain his scoring touch, joining Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek on the Ottawa Senators' top line on Thursday night (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images).
Now the Senators are hoping Bobby Butler can summon some of his old magic around the net to help resurrect their stagnant attack.
After three games as a healthy scratch, Senators head coach Paul MacLean is re-inserting Butler into the lineup for Thursday's matchup with the surging Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). Ottawa is winless in its seven outings (0-6-1) and, most alarmingly, has produced only nine goals in that stretch.
"We’re trying to generate some offence and Bobby has the ability to shoot the puck in the net," MacLean said in explaining the move. "We haven’t seen it consistently to this point in the season, but we’re going to give it another opportunity."
A year ago, Butler made a splash during his first full season with the organization, producing 45 goals between Ottawa — where he played 36 games — and the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. Included in that total were 13 playoff goals that played a key role in the B-Sens' drive to the Calder Cup crown.
It's been a much different story with the big club this season. Butler, who hasn't scored since Jan. 10 in Pittsburgh, has just five goals in 41 games in 2011-12. But three of those tallies have been game-winners and he also produced the deciding goal in a 4-3 shootout triumph over the Buffalo Sabres on New Year's Eve.
"Some things go your way, you hit a few posts and then it goes the other way," Butler said in describing his scoring woes this season. "You’ve just got to fight through it and hopefully, things will turn around."
Butler is being reunited on a line with centre Jason Spezza — with whom he had great success at times last season — along with Milan Michalek. Spezza, for one, is hopeful the trio can help generate some much-needed offence.
"Bobby’s anxious to get back in the lineup, so he’s going to be hungry to want to play a good game and to show his best," said Spezza. "We hope we can help him out and, in turn, he helps us out ... He’s going to be excited to get that chance and hopefully, we can make it work and find some of the chemistry we had toward the end of last year."
Added Michalek: "It'll give us some spark in the line, maybe. (Butler) has a good shot and he’s fast, so maybe he’s going to bring something different. I’m looking forward to it."
For his part, Butler is happy to vacate his seat on the sidelines during the last three games, when the Senators fell to the St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders by a combined 10-2 score.
"It’s not fun watching the games go by when you’re up in the press box," he said. "I just want to get in and do what I can do to help the team and maybe turn things around ... It's a huge opportunity. I just need to get my legs ready and be ready to play."
Around the boards
Senators defenceman Chris Phillips is set to play his 1,000th career NHL game on Thursday night — all of them in Ottawa. He'll become only the second to do so, following captain Daniel Alfredsson, who reached the milestone in April 2010 ... Thursday's game also marks the return of Mike Fisher to Scotiabank Place for the first time since he was dealt to the Predators almost a year to the day. Fisher was a fan favourite during a decade of duty in Ottawa and was also popular in the Senators dressing room. While Alfredsson, for one, is looking forward to seeing his former teammate, it'll be all business when the puck drops. "It will be good to see him again and I’m sure he’ll be warmly welcomed for everything he did here for the team and in the community. Hopefully, we can give him a nice reception and a big ‘L,’" Alfredsson said with a wry grin ... MacLean has yet to declare a starting goaltender for Thursday. Craig Anderson made his 18th straight start in Tuesday's loss to the Blues, but was pulled less than five minutes into the game after allowing two quick goals. Alex Auld finished up and allowed the third St. Louis goal.