Mike Halford

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Fans of the Ottawa Senators lineup the red carpet waiting for the players prior to the NHL home opener game against the Montreal Canadiens at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Poor attendance numbers an early story in Ottawa


The headlines from Ottawa’s local rags say it all.

Now we know how low the season ticket base is
Wayne Scanlan, Ottawa Citizen

Senators outscore Coyotes before a lot of empty seats
Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun

Attendance a growing concern for Senators
Don Brennan, Ottawa Sun

The Senators’ crowd numbers have been a problem right from the get go.

Ottawa opened the year with home dates against Toronto and Montreal, two games that — on paper — should’ve been sellouts. The Leafs are arguably the Senators’ biggest rival, and they arrived on opening night with No. 1 pick Auston Matthews in tow.

Wednesday’s attendance figure at the Canadian Tire Centre, which has a capacity of 19,153?

Just 17,618.

Surely, though, things would improve for Game 2.

This one was against Montreal, an original six club and another of the organization’s fiercest rivals. What’s more, the game was on a Saturday night and Habs fans routinely travel well to Ottawa, given the proximity between the two cities.

Saturday’s attendance? 18,195.

Things bottomed out completely against Arizona on Tuesday. A non-conference foe on a midweek night going up against the Blue Jays — who were fighting for their playoff lives against Cleveland — was always going to be a tough draw.

Really tough, apparently. Only 11,061 showed up to watch the club put up seven goals in a win over the Coyotes.

That offense is something worth mentioning. Though the sample size is small, Ottawa has emerged as one of the most offensively productive teams in the league, having found the back of the net 16 times through the first four games.

(Ottawa’s defensive issues also make for some high-scoring games: 5-4, 4-3, 5-1 and 7-4 thus far, with the first two going to overtime and a shootout respectively.)

You’d think those high scores and entertainment value alone would draw in the crowds, but it’s more complicated than that.

The Canadian Tire Centre is located in Kanata, an Ottawa suburb that’s not especially easy to get to. But there are other issues at play — outlined here, by SensNation’s Tyler Ray — which include traditionally “soft” attendance numbers at the beginning of the NHL campaign, and rumblings of a new arena location.

That, of course, is the proposed LeBreton Flats project, a 21.6-hectare parcel of land that Sens owner Eugene Melynk is bidding on. In his bid, Melnyk promised that a new Senators arena would be ready for the puck to drop by September of 2021.

The Senators don’t play again until Saturday, with another compelling matchup at home — Tampa Bay, an Eastern Conference powerhouse led by captain Steve Stamkos (who just so happens to be from Markham, Ontario, a five-hour drive away from Ottawa).

Should be interesting to see what kind of numbers the Sens get at the gate.

Veteran NHLer Moss calls it a career

David Moss
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David Moss, the nine-year veteran that spent time with both Calgary and Arizona, announced his retirement from professional hockey via his Twitter account on Wednesday morning.

“I’ll always be humbled to say I played in the NHL,” Moss said in a statement. “I will miss all of my teammates and the great relationships I made over the last 10 years, the hockey world is something special and I was lucky to be part of it!”

Moss, 34, was Calgary’s seventh-round pick at the 2001 draft. Following a solid career at the University of Michigan, Moss transitioned to the pro game in 2005 and made his NHL debut two years later, with the Flames.

His best year came in 2008-09, when he scored a career-high 20 goals and 39 points.

Moss spent the majority of his career in Calgary, appearing in over 300 games during a six-year span. He spent the final three years with the Coyotes, before a brief stint with Biel of the Swiss League last season.

Goalie nods: Dell, 27, to make NHL debut for Sharks

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Aaron Dell #30 of the San Jose Sharks warms up prior to the start of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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No shortage of storylines tonight, but here’s a neat one — Aaron Dell, the 27-year-old that’s captured the backup gig behind Martin Jones in San Jose, will make his first-ever NHL start when the Sharks take on the Isles in Brooklyn.

Dell was undrafted out of the University of North Dakota, and kicked around the CHL, ECHL and AHL after leaving school. He caught on with the Sharks organization a couple seasons ago, and won backup job by putting up solid numbers for the AHL Barracuda in ’15-16.

He posted a 17-16-6 record — with a .922 save percentage, 2.42 GAA and six shutouts — and used that, along with a strong training camp and preseason, to beat out Troy Grosenick and Mantas Armalis for the No. 2 job.

Given Dell’s relative obscurity, there was some question if San Jose would go out and snag a goalie to back up Jones this season. There were rumblings the club might look at Scott Wedgewood after the Devils exposed him to waivers, given the Peter DeBoer connection (DeBoer was the head coach in New Jersey while Wedgewood was tending goal for AHL Albany.)

That rumor never came to fruition, though, and the Sharks opted to go with Dell.

For the Isles, Jaroslav Halak will be in net.


John Gibson is back in goal for the Ducks, after allowing three goals on 30 shots in an OT loss to the Isles on Sunday. He’ll be up against Cory Schneider, who starts for the Devils.

Philipp Grubauer makes his first start of the season for Washington, giving Braden Holtby the night off. Semyon Varlamov goes for the Avs after Calvin Pickard beat the Penguins in OT on Monday.

Al Montoya starts his third game in a row for Montreal, as the Habs host the Pens. As mentioned, Pittsburgh played Colorado last night and didn’t skate this morning, so it could be Mike Condon making his team debut… against his former team, the Canadiens. If not, it’ll be Marc-Andre Fleury going back-to-back.

More: Canadiens don’t know if Price will play Thursday

Craig Anderson goes for Ottawa after Andrew Hammond was ventilated last night in Detroit. The visiting Coyotes are going with Mike Smith.

— An all-Finnish matchup in Nashville as Kari Lehtonen and the Stars visit Pekka Rinne and the Predators.

— The Flyers are going back to Michal Neuvirth in goal after Steve Mason started Saturday in Los Angeles. Corey Crawford counters for Chicago.

Jeff Zatkoff continues his run as the No. 1 in L.A., filling for the injured Jonathan Quick. Tonight he’ll face off against Darcy Kuemper, who will play his first game of the year for the Wild.

James Reimer makes his Panthers debut in the Battle of Florida. He’ll be up against Ben Bishop, who returns to start for the Lightning after Andrei Vasilevskiy beat the Devils on Saturday.

More: There’s no bad blood between Bishop and Vasilevskiy

Robin Lehner, fresh off his first win of the year Sunday in Edmonton, goes for the Sabres in Calgary. The Flames are making an interesting move by going with Chad Johnson for the second straight game, ahead of No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott, who struggled mightily to start the year.

— Battle of the Cams in Edmonton: Cam Talbot for the Oilers, Cam Ward for the ‘Canes.

Jacob Markstrom gets the nod for Vancouver, as Ryan Miller is dealing with tightness. It was an optional skate for St. Louis today, so no word on a starter.

Updated: Miller’s out for tonight. Vancouver, in need of an emergency backup, have signed University of British Columbia goalie Matt Hewitt. Hewitt, 23, used to play for WHL Regina but has spent the last four seasons at the Canadian University level.

Oilers expected to sit Puljujarvi after ugly loss

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Jesse Puljujarvi #98 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first NHL goal in his first regular season NHL game against the Calgary Flames on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Busy news day in Edmonton ahead of tonight’s contest against Carolina.

First, the lineup stuff — Jesse Puljujarvi, the No. 4 overall pick at this year’s draft, looks to be a healthy scratch following Sunday’s 6-2 home loss to the Sabres.

The decision comes after Puljujarvi scored in his NHL debut — a 7-4 win over the Flames — but appeared to take a step back in the following two contests. He played just 7:26 in Friday’s 5-3 win over Calgary, and went minus-1 with a giveaway in just over 12 minutes of action on Sunday (though he did have a relatively solid night in terms of possession metrics.)

“He’s going through a cultural adjustment as much as he’s going through a hockey adjustment,” head coach Todd McLellan said of Puljujarvi, per CHED 630 radio. “At 18, that’s a tough thing, so we want to keep him in a central environment where he’s familiar with his surroundings, his coaching staff and with his teammates.

“If he continues to develop and evolves and we feel this is the right spot for him, he’ll stay here. If not, we have the luxury of him playing some games at the American League level.”

Anton Slepyshev, who hasn’t played since the season opener, will draw in for Puljujarvi on a line with Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl. Defenseman Mark Fayne, who hasn’t played this year, will come in and replace Eric Gryba.

More: ‘We can’t handle prosperity yet’ — McLellan rips Oilers after ugly loss to Sabres

In other Oiler news, McLellan updated the statuses of injured forwards Drake Caggiula (hip), Matt Hendricks (lower body) and Iiro Pakarinen (knee).

With Gustavsson out, the Oilers will give Cam Talbot another start and Laurent Brossoit, recalled from AHL Bakersfield, will serve as the backup.

KHL signee Lyubimov to make Flyers debut

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 19: Roman Lyubimov #23 of Russia and Sinan Akdag #82 of Germany battle for the puck  at Ice Palace on May 19, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. Russia defeated Germany 4-1. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)

Welcome to the big stage, Roman Lyubimov.

Lyubimov, the 24-year-old Russian signed out of the KHL this summer, will make both his Flyers and NHL debut tonight when Philly takes on the Blackhawks in Chicago.

“He’s a big guy, he skates well,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall upon signing Lyubimov in June, per CSN Philly. “He plays a solid, two-way game. Kind of an up-and-downer.

“We’ve had our eye on him for a couple years, but he kind of really popped at the World Championships this past year.”

Lyubimov, 24, hardly stood out in the KHL — just 34 points in 185 games over six seasons — but, as Hextall mentioned, burst onto the scene at the Worlds. He had eight points in 10 games, helping Russia capture bronze, and his size (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) caught the eye of several scouts in attendance.

Lyubimov will draw in for Nick Cousins this evening, who was one of the club’s most productive forwards through the first two games of the year, with two points in just over 13 minutes of action per night.

The Russian will skate on a line with Boyd Gordon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.