It’s been tough sledding for Milan Michalek this year, but he’ll get a chance for redemption on Friday.
Today, head coach Paul MacLean confirmed Michalek would draw back into the lineup for tomorrow’s tilt in Florida. Michalek was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Tuesday, forced to watched from the press box as Ottawa beat St. Louis 3-2 in a shootout. The decision to park Michalek came after he scored just two goals in his first 20 games of the year — not nearly enough production for a former 35-goal scorer that’s making $4 million annually.
“After the first 10 games you sort out what your best team is,” MacLean told the Ottawa Sun. “The second 10 games you try to play your best team to see what happens and after the third 10 games you need results.
“This [win over St. Louis] was Game 21. You have to play the best players. We say all along that the best players play. When we looked over the first 20 games, (Michalek) and Mika [Zibanejad] were the ones that were out.”
Pretty blunt analysis from MacLean. It’ll be interesting to see if the healthy scratch lights a fire under the 29-year-old Czech; Michalek’s in the first of a three-year, $12 million deal and is on the books through 2017, with a limited no-trade clause.
After dropping back-to-back games, the Chicago Blackhawks managed to eke out a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators Sunday night.
Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling, 25, made his NHL debut as Corey Crawford continues to recover from an upper-body injury. Darling took the long route to the NHL as he went through stints in the Southern Professional Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, and Central Hockey League along the way. However, he stood tall when finally given the opportunity to play at the highest level, turning aside 32 of 33 shots tonight.
This was also a big night for Patrick Kane, who picked up an assist on Jonathan Toews’ opening goal. For Kane, that was his 500th point in just 523 games:
Milan Michalek tied it up at 7:08 of the second period, but Brent Seabrook responded by scoring what would ultimately be the game-winning goal.
Chicago improved to 5-2-1 this season while Ottawa is now 4-2-1. The two squads will have a rematch on Thursday.
Forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau is expected to return to the ice Saturday after missing Friday to nurse an injury.
The same can’t be said for Marc Methot, Eric Gryba or Milan Michalek – all three are expected to miss Saturday’s practices at the team’s Fan Fest nursing various injuries.
“It’s purely (the organization’s) decision to keep them out,” coach Paul MacLean told the Ottawa Sun. “If it was up to the players they’d all be out there skating.”
Methot, who is nursing a sore back, hasn’t played in any preseason games and was unable to do the skating tests at the start of camp as a result of the injury.
“The most important thing is to be patient and make sure he’s 100% before we put him back on the ice and not try to force something that (makes it) a long process,” said MacLean. “It’s already been a long enough process now. We want to nip in the bud and make sure when he’s back on the ice he’s 100%.”
The Senators don’t resume their preseason schedule until Sept. 30 when they visit the Winnipeg Jets.