The Ottawa Senators overcame a barrage of injuries to make the playoffs in 2013. But for a variety of reasons, the wins have been harder to come by this season. Until lately.
On Saturday, the Sens won their fourth straight (and fifth in six) with a 4-3 overtime victory in Montreal. With another two points, they moved to within two points of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, putting further pressure on a pair of struggling teams, Toronto and Detroit.
“The goal is to be in the playoffs at the end of the season,” said goalie Craig Anderson, per Sens Extra.
“That’s been our goal since Day 1. Obviously we didn’t play the first half the way we wanted to, but things right now are starting to go in our favor. We’re working hard at it.
“We’re getting better every day. If you worry about what you can control, and that’s how we work and how we play, the end result, if we keep winning games, usually you end up in the playoffs because you’re winning more games than you’re losing.”
So good last season, Anderson’s numbers have fallen dramatically in 2013-14, from a save percentage of .941 to .904. But he’s been better lately, with five straight victories to show for it.
And according to coach Paul MacLean, “We’re not spending as much time in our own zone, or turning over as many pucks as we did earlier in the year, which makes it a little easier to manage momentum.”
The Sens have a tough game Wednesday in Colorado, followed by two more road contests in Nashville and Minnesota.
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.
Read more about his rise here.
In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).
Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.
See it for yourself:
Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.
He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.
Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.
Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:
No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.
The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?
He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.
Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.
The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.
He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.
With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.
Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?
Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: