The Toronto Maple Leafs can make it three wins in a row coming out of the All-Star break if they’re able to take care of business against the 27th-place Ottawa Senators in their second next-generation game of the season tonight on Hockey Night in Canada (7 p.m. ET, CBC/Sportsnet).
All of the talking points surrounding the Ottawa Senators at the moment concern their pending-UFAs (JG Pageau, Dylan DeMelo, Mark Borowiecki, Ron Hainsey, Mikkel Boedker, Vladislav Namestnikov), the trade deadline, and their chance at two top five picks in this coming draft. The team started the year terribly, going 1-6-1 in their first eight games before settling in for some decent stretches through early November and mid-to-late December. 9-4-0 and 5-2-4 stretches all but eliminated the Sens in the race for last place/best lottery odds — a tank battle the Detroit Red Wings are winning handily by 16 points.
Since the New Year, the Sens have gone 2-5-4, so there are quite a few close games in their recent history. Ottawa’s defensive game has been their biggest downfall if we were to name just one, but their finishing ability has slipped recently as well: Their shooting percentage is at 5.5% at five-on-five in 2020 (29th), although they have had a good month on the power play, generating eight goals per 60 on the man advantage (fourth in the NHL since Jan. 1) and their penalty kill (80.9%, 15th) has also helped keep them in games at times.
At the center of what little success the Senators have had lately is rookie goalie Marcus Hogberg. The 25-year-old has started seven of Ottawa’s 11 games in January with veteran Craig Anderson struggling to find his form and Anders Nilsson out with a concussion since December. Despite a 1-2-4 record in those games, Nilsson has posted a .920 save percentage (the team has a .896 team save percentage overall). However, it’s not yet clear who will start tonight:
D.J. Smith will update lineup at 4:45 here in Toronto. No skate this morning and we'll find out if it's Craig Anderson against the Leafs then. Leafs didn't skate either. They had a team meeting and then media availability. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) February 1, 2020
For the Leafs, Michael Hutchinson will receive his first start since his shutout against the Islanders on January 4th; he has entered two games in relief since then, giving up three goals on 16 shots vs. Edmonton and four goals on 17 shots vs. Florida in those blowout losses.
Suddenly being discussed — rightly or wrongly — as a potential trade chip as we approach the deadline due to Ramus Sandin’s emergence, Travis Dermott will miss tonight’s game with an illness. Considering Martin Marincin was paired with Tyson Barrie before he was scratched following Jake Muzzin’s return from injury, it looks like Marincin will return there to start. However, considering Sandin’s success of late, the pairs could be pretty fluid in order to get the rookie some looks in offensive situations. Nonetheless, the starting pairs will be:
Game Day Quotes
Auston Matthews on the Sens:
They work hard and they’ve got a lot fo speed and skill, so we’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of the puck in all aspects of our game.
Sheldon Keefe on the Senators:
They’re the kind of team that makes it really hard on you. You expect that from a D.J Smith-coached team. The PK is his baby — their work on shorthanded goals in one thing, but at 5-on-5, they make it really hard on you as well. In terms of our approach and our preparation, it’s not unlike what we had to go through in order to prepare to play against Dallas.
Keefe on the change in Hutchinson’s confidence now vs. earlier in the year:
I think you see a little bit of a change in confidence. It’s natural that he would feel insecure about his place in the whole deal here. He’s played well and earned some wins and he feels like he belongs here now. Each day you can just see a little bit more personality in him and that’s a really good thing.
Keefe on the decision to start Hutchinson tonight:
That’s our intention and it has been our intention for the last while. We’ll take every week as it comes, but we think it made sense for today.
As we said, we’re all trying to reduce the workload for Freddy. We just look at the fact that we’ve got five games here in the next eight days, Fred played two on the road plus he had the All-Star deal, so this one just made sense.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza
#41 Dmytro Timashov – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #42 Trevor Moore
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#52 Martin Marincin – #94 Tyson Barrie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #83 Cody Ceci
#30 Michael Hutchinson (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen
Scratched: Dmytro Timashov, Tyler Gaudet
Injured: Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, Travis Dermott (illness), Kasperi Kapanen (late scratch)
Ottawa Senators Projected Lines
#8 Brady Tkachuk – #44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau – #28 Connor Brown
#90 Vladislav Namestnikov – #71 Chris Tierney – #10 Anthony Duclair
#63 Tyler Ennis – #36 Colin White – #19 Drake Batherson
#78 Filip Chlapik – #51 Artem Anisimov – #49 Scott Sabourin
#72 Thomas Chabot – #81 Ron Hainsey
#74 Mark Borowiecki – #2 Dylan Demelo
#5 Mike Reilly – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#35 Marcus Hogberg
#41 Craig Anderson
Injured: Anders Nilsson, Nick Paul