Tonight poses an interesting test for Nazem Kadri. After a strong start to preseason which seemed to have most convinced of his fixture in the October 6th opening night lineup, a few turnovers in the 3-2 loss at Buffalo has some questioning whether or not the (thus far) consistently solid Matt Frattin is better suited for the third line left winger’s role.
One of the benefits of having a player with Kadri’s offensive upside on the third line is his ability to step into a top six role if needed. That type of versatility, in the case of an injury or should Wilson feel the need to call an audible to shake up the offence, can come in handy when the games start mattering. Tonight, Tim Connolly has been given the night off after getting banged up in practice yesterday (hopefully not a sign of things to come), and Kadri will step in between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel at center ice. It would be a big boost to his cause if the 20-year-old can prove up to the task tonight.
Against Buffalo on Saturday, Kadri was undoubtedly guilty of the main flaws that prevented him from earning a full time job with the club last season. Forcing plays, overhandling the puck in high traffic areas, and turning over possession high in the offensive zone are exactly the type of mistakes Nazem needs to eliminate from his game (to his credit, he has been doing well outside of a few instances last outing). If things aren’t going the team’s way Kadri seemingly kicks into “me against the world” mode and it’s then when these mistakes start occurring. In one sense it speaks to Kadri’s desire to be a difference maker, which is a good thing, but he’s got to stay disciplined in his game; it may have worked in junior but he’s had two seasons now to learn it doesn’t hack it in the big leagues.
While Kadri vs. Frattin continues to be an intriguing storyline up front, there is perhaps even tougher decisions to be made on the backend. The pairing of Gunnarsson and Phaneuf for tonight’s tilt against Ottawa is almost certainly a litmus test of the pair’s chemistry. As waiver status seems to have pitted Phaneuf’s original partner Aulie against Jake Gardiner for a place in the top seven, Wilson and his staff will be keeping a close eye on this pairing’s dynamics. Â Aulie meanwhile will play with Franson while Schenn and Liles pair up.
Schenn – Liles
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Aulie – Franson
(courtesy of senators.nhl.com)
Colin Greening – Jason Spezza – Nikita Filatov
Mike Hoffman – Mika Zibanejad – Bobby Butler
Nick Foligno – Peter Regin – Erik Condra
Kaspars Daugavins – Zack Smith – Chris Neil
Mark Borowiecki -Â Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen – Erik Karlsson
Brian Lee-David Rundblad
S: Robin Lehner