GDT: Maple Leafs at Senators (7 p.m., CBC)

GDT: Maple Leafs at Senators (7 p.m., CBC)

984

Photo: sportsnet.ca

The Sens try to avoid a sixth defeat in a row as they take on a Maple Leafs club that has points in four straight…

In fact, the last time Ottawa was in danger of dropping six in a row, it picked up a road win at Toronto on Nov. 12. That victory is part of the Senators’ current three-game win streak over the Leafs and they have won six of the past nine encounters overall. Toronto, though, has won four of its past six at Ottawa…

Toronto, 3-0-1 in its past four, is holding onto the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, two points up on Washington and one behind seventh-place New Jersey.

-Full preview at The Score

There’s some life back in the Battle of Ontario this season with both teams competitive and sitting in close proximity in the playoff fight. It’s the definition of a four point game between the eighth-placed Leafs and the sixth-placed Senators tonight in Ottawa. With a win, the Leafs would put themselves within a point of the struggling Sens with two games in hand.

The Senators look like they may be returning to reality, with five straight losses coming into tonight. There was more talent than we thought on this Sens team, and Craig Anderson has been a big part of their success in the first 50 games, but being a bottom three team in defence (3.04 GA/G) against only gets you so far. Let us hope the Sens start to remember they’re supposed to be competing for Nail Yakupov, not the playoffs this season.

The Leafs meanwhile have been finding new ways to win games lately, posting four shutouts in the last month and allowing only 27 goals over their last 13 games on the back of an improved, less often used penalty kill and better goaltending. We talked at the half way point about how secondary scoring would likely have to improve if and when Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel inevitably endure a slow patch. That appears to be happening now, and the likes of Grabovski, MacArthur and Kulemin have greatly stepped up their contributions. Kessel and Lupul have just one point each in their last five games, but Kulemin (five points), Grabovski (nine points) and MacArthur (six points) have picked up the slack.

The Leafs have not been as successful as you’d hope against their provincial division rival this season. From the third period of the Leafs’ first meeting with the Sens this season onward (when the Sens staged a massive near-comeback in the Leafs’ 6-5 win on Oct. 8), Ottawa has had their number. The Sens have won three straight over the Leafs since, and Toronto must close out the season series with two wins just to even the score.

James Reimer is in net for the Leafs looking to build upon his shutout effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. Craig Anderson, the league leader in starts, goes for the Senators.

***

Game Day Recipe:

Courtesy of Jason Kelly (a.k.a. Ensign)

Here is a simple recipe for a spinach dip in a bread bowl. It’s a pretty good dish to serve on it’s own or with veggies. It also goes great with hot wings and pulled pork. I’ve also included a slow cooker recipe for that reason.

SPINACH DIP IN BREAD BOWL

INGREDIENTS:

1 pkg. instant onion soup mix
1 pkg. cream cheese (250 g)
1 small container sour cream (250 g)
3 tbs mayonnaise
1 bag (0r bunch) fresh cut spinach, washed and drained
1 round loaf sourdough bread or pumpernickel bread

Optional: Chopped green onions or 1/4 finely chopped red onion

DIRECTIONS:

Mix cream cheese thoroughly with the onion soup. Add the mayo and sour cream. Add the spinach. Mix it all well together. Chill 1 or 2 hours or overnight if time permits.

Cut the top from the loaf of bread; hull out center and lay pieces around loaf. Fill in center with the dip and place the top of the bread back on the bread. Cover the bread with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 1-1.5 hours. Take top off and bake for an additional 5-10 min. Place the bread pieces aside for dipping.

Serve with small bread cubes from the loaf, together with assorted raw vegetables.

CROCKPOT PULLED PORK OR BEEF

3 lb boneless chuck (or any roast really)

1 ½ cup ketchup

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp garlic powder

Place roast in the slow cooker. Combine above ingredients and pour over roast. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Remove meat and shred with a fork placing shreds back in the sauce.

This works well with a completely frozen roast and let it rip all day on low while you are out getting beer and other snacks for the game…. or, better yet, spending your time on MLHS! By game time it’ll be good to go so just crack open a beer and settle in.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at brownscombealec@gmail[email protected]