The parallels between these two provincial rivals goes deeper than their matching point totals through 23 games. Both teams are getting good goaltending, sitting top 5 in team save percentage (Senators are 1st at 0.945), despite rotating goalies due to injury, inexperience on the backend and a lot of shots allowed (Leafs – 25th, Senators – 29th). Like the Leafs with Kostka, Holzer and Fraser, the Senators have been giving the inexperienced likes of Eric Gryba, Andre Benoit and Peter Wiercioch significant minutes and so far are hanging in the playoff picture with a goals against total in the top 10 league wide.
Where the Leafs hopefully find an edge is in that they have been scoring far more, sitting 7th league wide with 2.96 goals per game. The Senators have scored just five goals in the four games since defeating the Leafs 3-2 in Ottawa on February 23 and sit 29th league wide with 2.13 goals/game. Kyle Turris has struggled mightily to fill Jason Spezza’s shoes at top line center while Spezza recovers from back surgery. Turris is mired in a 19-game goalless streak with just one point in his last seven. The Sens will get a boost from one returning member of their infirmary, 2011-12 35-goal-scorer Milan Michalek.
As the Habs do not appear to be plummeting any time soon, it’s hard to picture both the Leafs and Sens sticking around the top 8 in the Conference and four of the Northeast’s five teams comprising half of the final Eastern playoff bracket, especially with interdivisional games comprising nearly half of the schedule. The Leafs need to pick off a low-scoring and wounded Senators team that has only won 3 of 11 on the road this season and start to gain some distance on a division rival. Scraping out low scoring points has been the Senators specialty of late so an early goal could do wonders.
James Reimer will get his third consecutive start, seeking his third consecutive win since returning to the lineup and his fifth straight dating back to before his injury. Matt Frattin has put off his return at least another game, not yet confident enough in his knee and knee brace to return to game action.
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