Offseason Report: Ottawa Senators

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From July 16-Aug 16, we’ll be profiling all 30 NHL teams by recapping what they did this offseason and previewing their upcoming campaigns.

2011-12 season

41-31-10, 92 points. Second in Northeast Division, eighth in the Eastern Conference. Lost in the conference quarterfinals (4-3) to the New York Rangers.

Additions

Marc Methot, Guillaume Latendresse, Mike Lundin

Departures

Filip Kuba, Nick Foligno, Zenon Konopka, Matt Carkner, Bobby Butler

2012 Draft

First round, 15th overall — D Cody Ceci (OHL Ottawa)

Looking back

It was a busy offseason in Ottawa, one where Sens GM Bryan Murray changed up numerous complimentary pieces. The club’s biggest move, obviously, was inking Norris winner Erik Karlsson to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal…but there was also the key re-signing of veteran grit forward Chris Neil.

It’s possible locking up those two pieces will push captain Daniel Alfredsson to stave off retirement. Karlsson’s a fellow Swede, Neil’s been Alfredsson’s teammate for 10 years and after those signings, Murray said there was optimism Alfie would come back.

In terms of Ottawa’s new faces, Guillaume Latendresse and Marc Methot should step in and play key roles. Latendresse has a chance to receive top-six minutes up front while Methot is a candidate to replace Filip Kuba as Karlsson’s defensive partner.

Looking forward

With noted tough guys like Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner gone and a slew of talented young forward prospects (Mark Stone, Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad, Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel) on the horizon, there’s a chance Ottawa could be an even more offensively dynamic team in 2012-13.

That’s an exciting prospect considering the Sens averaged 2.96 goals per game last year, fourth most in the NHL.

Ottawa’s narrative for the rest of the summer will likely revolve around Alfredsson and whether he’ll return to the Canadian capital. If he does, it gives him a chance at a pretty compelling swan song as the Sens should again challenge for a playoff spot.

If he doesn’t, it’ll be a major loss for the Sens not just in player quality, but also leadership. Alfredsson has served as captain since 1999 and was an important veteran presence on an Ottawa team that dressed 10 rookies last season.

Have your say

Vote in our poll and let us know what you think of Ottawa’s 2012-13 outlook in the comments section.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.