A classic Wednesday rivalry night in the NHL is shaping up with the Ottawa Senators visiting the Detroit Red Wings at home in Joe Louis Arena. It could almost feel like a fight night as the Arena’s name suggest since the Sens will be coming in with a beefed up defense. Upgraded today.
In the last two games the Sens have played better defensively and hope that trend continues with their latest acquisition, a veteran blueliner who will shore up their backend. D-man, Dion Phaneuf will debut for the visiting Senators as they push for their third consecutive win against the Detroit Red Wings, who know him well.
Phaneuf, was traded from Toronto to Ottawa today in blockbuster nine-player deal that many were taken by surprise with. The trade should bolster a blueline that shoudl help them get through the strecth. Even though, currently the Sens are out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, at 25-23-6 they have a chance to feel good with back-to-back wins following a 1-5-0 stretch, where they can start to build a winning trend.
Over the weekend, due to bad play and blowout losses, the Senators held a players’ meeting after their third straight defeat, 7-2 to Edmonton at home last Thursday to gather their forces and get back on track. That’s exactly what they were able to do when on Saturday night they beat the team they just traded with, outscoring Toronto 6-1. Last night they went and beat a much more tougher team, Tampa Bay at a convincing 5-1 score.
“You’re at the point in your schedule and in the season where there’s no margin for error here,” said Sens coach Dave Cameron to media.
Ottawa hasn’t had three straight wins since Nov. 19-25 when they had a four-game run. So Phaneuf should be ready to help. Traded for defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg and a second-round 2017 pick, Ottawa also got forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert, and defensive prospect Cody Donaghey alongside the now ex-Leafs’ captain.
“From our point of view it’s a trade that will give us a little more security on the back end,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray said. “(Phaneuf is) a real good person. He competes. He wants to win … We don’t expect him to be a savior. We expect him to be the player he is.”
He should be a great support to two-time Norris Trophy winner and leading scorer Erik Karlsson. Despite his success, the Sens are still in the basement of the league allowing 3.07 goals per game. And they stand dead last while killing off only 74.6 percent of their penalties.
Phaneuf’s experience will definitely be an upgrade and he will probably become a mentor for the Sens’ talented and upcoming young defenseman Cody Ceci. Even though the 11-year veteran is a minus-15 since the start of last season, he should turn a ‘new leaf’ on the other team in the same province.
He’s a three-time All-Star, and Phaneuf has 424 career points. Unil today he was tied for the Maple Leafs’ lead with 21 assists this season. “We’re excited to have him,” injured forward Clarke MacArthur, who played with Phaneuf in Toronto, told the Senators’ official Twitter feed.
So now the Senators can try to continue their defensive improvement. In the last two games, they killed all seven penalties compared to the previous three where their opponents went 6 for 10 on the power play. Goalie Craig Anderson posted a 5.63 goals-against average on that three-game skid, but has stopped 57 of 59 shots in the last two contests.
“If you let your foot off the pedal and get back on your heels, you put your confidence in jeopardy again because your play will be in jeopardy,” Cameron told local media. “It’s just a matter of sticking to it now.”
Sen Mark Stone has also been playing well, with five goals and three assists in four games after going pointless in the previous eight games. “Once you get that little confidence, that little swagger back you feel comfortable every night,” said Stone, who on Monday had two goals and an assist on Monday night’s 5-1 blowout of Tampa Bay.
The Red Wings who are sitting similarly close in the standings at 27-18-8 will not be an easy team to dominate. They’ve has a total of nine goals winning the last two at Ottawa.
They will be Looking to improve their playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Detroit has turned around a recent bad home record of 0-4-1 on home ice, by outscoring the New York Islanders and Florida 8-1 to win the last two games at Joe Louis. They’ll be looking for win 3 also.
“Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come,” said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill. The last time the team won three straight at home was during a four-game run in Dec. 1-10, 2015.
Detroit superstar Pavel Datsyuk, has four points in two games after scoring twice in Monday’s 3-0 victory over the Panthers. Goalie Petr Mrazek, made 23 saves for his second shutout in five starts, has won nine of 12 and has a 1.18 GAA with a .955 save percentage in his last 11 games. The last time he faced Ottawa, he stopped 33 shots beating the Sens with a final score of 5-3, on Halloween.
Star player, Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg got two assists on Monday, and has two with a goal against Ottawa this year. But Stone has a goal and three assists against the Red Wings in 2015-16 too. Only Anderson might be fearing visiting the Red Wings and should be motivated to get a win on the roas since he has a 3.93 ERA on a 0-2-2 slump against Detroit. So look for him to make an outstanding effort.
We think Phaneuf will have a positive effect on his new teammates and they will all play with extra motivation to impress and integrate the popular defenceman.
Our Pick: Sens over Red Wings, 4-2