After two spirited tilts at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens and Senators will make the two hour drive down Highway 40, and then the 417, to ScotiaBank Place. The first two games of the series have made for great viewing - ten goals between the two teams, a number of strong chances, some excellent goaltending going both ways, and a win for each team. The Canadiens began the series with home-ice advantage, but with a split in La Belle Province, the Habs will have to win a best-of-five series in which three games are played in Ottawa.
A win tonight would change that dynamic. The Canadiens have manhandled the Senators for a good portion of the first two games, posting a cumulative 23-shot advantage and twice as many scoring chances as the Senators as they head to the Nation's Capital. With a depleted lineup taking the ice tonight, likely very similar to the one that won Game Two, the Canadiens will need the same energy and team-wide commitment that they displayed on Friday night.
As of this Sunday morning writing, it appears that the Canadiens may still be without Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta for tonight's affair. Michel Therrien is set to brief the media at the noon hour, and lineup news will be updated here as soon as we get it. With no word at all on Lars Eller, it appears that he and Alexei Emelin are certain to miss tonight's game.
The Senators may have some lineup complications of their own, as the lines they've iced for a skate this morning are a little different from what we've seen in the first two games. Key cogs like Captain Daniel Alfredsson and scorer Milan Michalek were absent, as was depth winger Colin Greening. In their place were young Mark Stone, erstwhile Calder candidate Cory Conacher, and centre Mike Hoffman, a veteran of two AHL seasons and four total NHL games. While absence from a morning skate is far from a clear indication that some of Ottawa's more important players won't be taking part, it will be interesting to see how Ottawa's forward group takes shape tonight.
As for speculation that Jason Spezza may be approaching a Karlsson-like miracle recovery, various Ottawa-based publications seems to have dismissed those rumours for now.
Finally, in seeking to determine the identity of who might dress for the Senators in the Eric Gryba Commemorative Sixth Defenseman role, Silver Seven concluded that Andre Benoit acquitted himself nicely in Game Two, making him a likely candidate. Our SBN counterparts even floated the possibility of dressing seven defensemen, which would mean adding Patrick Wiercioch to the Sens' mix in order to maximize Paul Maclean's options for spelling Erik Karlsson.
Spelling Karlsson will be among the various lineup options at Paul Maclean's disposal, as the Jack Adams candidate now has the luxury of last change to determine proper deployment of his troops. Michel Therrien has been content to allow the pair of Diaz-Gorges to handle the toughest minutes, while simultaneously maximizing Subban and Markov's contributions on offense by allowing them to handle lesser competition. With Subban playing at an all-world level in the series' first two games, Maclean will likely devise something to try and slow the Norris candidate defenseman down.
Game Two was a classic for Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who matched and exceeded Craig Anderson after clearly being outshone by the Senators' netminder in Game One. Price moved fluidly from post-to-post, kept his cool during a freak dental emergency, and offered the Canadiens the saves they needed during a few minutes of Senators pressure at the end of the second and third periods. Anderson has played well in both games, failing to allow even a single weak goal so far, and acting as the glue that has allowed the Senators to stay competitive so far. While the Canadiens skaters have clearly outplayed those of the Senators so far, the team with the better goaltending has won both games so far.
While a game in Ottawa may prove me wrong, I feel that the adage of, "you're not in trouble until you lose on home ice," is not quite accurate in this series. When one of these teams loses a game, despite a clear advantage in the crease, I think we'll see that the series has turned.
Check out the opposing side at Silver Seven.