Ottawa Senators

Playoff watch — what the bubble teams need to do

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Using Sports Club Stats, here are the records each bubble team needs down the stretch to earn a better-than-50-percent shot of making the playoffs…

Eastern Conference (four bubble teams, one spot available)

Boston Bruins — 8-7-4
Ottawa Senators — 12-5-3
Florida Panthers — 11-4-2
Philadelphia Flyers — 12-3-2

Andrew Hammond and the Senators continued their roll this week, earning three out of a possible four points in two tough places to play, Minnesota and Winnipeg. Meanwhile, the Bruins had just one game (a shootout loss to Calgary) and the Panthers failed to beat a pair of non-playoff teams, Toronto and Dallas, at home. The Sens, one of the NHL’s hottest teams, appear to be the Bruins’ biggest threat now. Ottawa returns home to face Buffalo tonight, Calgary Sunday, then, after those two winnable games, the B’s come to town for a big contest Tuesday. Ottawa and Boston play twice down the stretch.

Western Conference (eight bubble teams, four spots available)

Vancouver Canucks — 7-8-3
Minnesota Wild — 7-9-2
Calgary Flames — 8-7-3
Los Angeles Kings — 10-8-0
Winnipeg Jets — 9-8-0
San Jose Sharks — 9-4-4
Colorado Avalanche — 13-3-2
Dallas Stars — 13-3-1

A bad week for the Jets, who only played once and lost at home to aforementioned Ottawa. Meanwhile, the Wild and Kings each won twice. As a result, Winnipeg’s playoff chances fell from 77.2 percent on Sunday to 53.7 percent today. On top of that, the Jets’ next four games are all on the road, in Nashville, St. Louis, Florida and Tampa Bay. Like the Jets, the Canucks also lost ground, getting smoked at home by San Jose then failing to beat an Arizona team that had lost 10 straight in regulation. Big game tomorrow between the Canucks and Sharks in San Jose. Oh, and welcome back to the list, Dallas. The Stars climbed back over the 1-percent chance mark with two wins this week.

Sens have discussed front office options for Alfredsson

On Thursday the Ottawa Senators gave Daniel Alfredsson a key to the city.

Does the key open the door to a front office job for Alfredsson?

“He wanted a year or so away and I think that’s important for him, but it’s certainly something Eugene [Melnyk] and I have discussed if [Alfredsson] wants to do it,” GM Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Sun.

Ideally, the 42-year-old would take a position similar to Steve Yzerman in Detroit. Yzerman was the Red Wings vice president and alternate governor prior to joining the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Maybe that would be the way to start if you go that route,” said Alfredsson. “I’m not naive enough to think I can step into those positions full-time right away. Can I help out in those areas? Of course I can with my experience.

“I think that would be the way to go for both parties. Going forward, that might be better what I’m suited for. If I go that route, that’s probably the way to go.”

According to the Sun, Alfredsson plans on making a decision on his future in the game this summer. For the time being he’s enjoying coaching his sons’ hockey team in Detroit.

“If I’m going to do something in a full-time job I want to do it 100 percent,” he said. “I don’t know if right now is the right time with the stage the kids are at. That’s the way I feel.”

In praise of the Hamburglar

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The NHL’s best story of the last few weeks comes from a 27-year-old undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green, with a nickname derived from the thief of McDonaldland.

That, of course, is Ottawa goalie Andrew Hammond.

Hammond, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week, continued his run of improbability on Wednesday night by stopping 35 of 36 shots in a 3-1 win over Winnipeg. Since making his regular season debut on Feb. 16, the Hamburglar has gone 6-0-1 with a 1.35 GAA, .957 save percentage and two shutouts — lifting the Sens from nine points back of Boston for the east’s final wild card spot, to just four heading into tonight’s play.

“We can’t say enough good things about him,” Sens teammate Kyle Turris said following the Winnipeg win, per CBC. “We love him. He is playing great, and we’re just trying to rally for him.”

What makes Hammond’s story so compelling is where it came from: Out of nowhere. He was a good goalie on some bad Bowling Green teams during his college days and wasn’t a standout in the American League; after making a brief NHL debut last season — one 34-minute relief appearance — he seemed firmly entrenched as the Senators’ No. 3 netminder behind Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, especially after both inked contract extensions last summer (they’re carrying a combined $5.3M cap hit this year.)

Then, injuries happened.

Anderson went down with a hand ailment and Lehner suffered a concussion, which thrust Hammond into a starting role. Despite this, the Sens didn’t seem to adapt any and still struggled with the same issues they had when Anderson and Lenher were in goal — sloppy defensive coverage, too many shots allowed.

But now they’ve got the Hamburglar bailing them out.

Ottawa still sits bottom-five in the NHL in shots allowed per game (32.5) and Hammond’s stats over the last seven games reflect that. He’s faced 33.5 per night, including a combined 74 in his last two outings — a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota and the aforementioned 3-1 win over Winnipeg.

Hammond admits he didn’t foresee this run of great play, but also said it’s not a surprise.

“It’s something that you don’t really envision starting this way, but when you put the work in you don’t feel like it’s unwarranted,” he explained, per NHL.com. “You definitely don’t envision it unfolding this way, but you do think you can be successful at this level.”

The big question now, of course, is what happens when Anderson and/or Lehner is ready to return. The former seems close and, given Ottawa has made contractual commitments to both guys, there could be the pressure to turn the net back over to Anderson as soon as he’s ready to go.

Heck, Anderson was slated to start last night’s game against the Jets before ruling himself out with some lingering discomfort in the hand. Head coach Dave Cameron acknowledged Anderson needs to get back in the net soon, but how will he justify not starting Hammond in light of the club’s reignited playoff chances?

To hear Sens players explain it, the roll Hammond’s on is something special — and maybe something you don’t want to mess with.

“Hammy’s standing on his head for us,” Turris said. “I can’t even explain how well he’s playing.

“It’s unbelievable.”

PHT Morning Skate: Former Leafs coach expects 7-8 year rebuild

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

It seems like former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson has a part-time job in which he says negative things about his old team. The Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno presents the latest it of grim commentary, as Wilson told Fan 590 that their rebuild could take seven-to-eight years. (Whyno’s tweet)

The NHL’s top 10 rising prospects. (The Hockey News)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts Thursday at 7:00pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

It looks like Vancouver is indeed going forward with naming a street Pat Quinn Way. Great stuff. (Metro News)

Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Gary Agnew thought the team looked “lethargic” in their 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche (Penguins website)

A commercial involving Bobby Ryan and Brent Burns seems random – especially since it isn’t for a pizza company – but it turns brilliant here:

See any resemblance?

Video: Hammond, Senators win again

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Andrew Hammond continues to surprise. The Ottawa Senators continue to win.

Against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, the 27-year-old Hammond made 35 saves and the Senators skated to a 3-1 victory, which is their sixth win in the last seven games. Hammond has six wins in eight games this season and has still yet to lose in regulation at the NHL level. He also hasn’t given up more than two goals in each of his eight appearances with the Senators this season.

Talk about a good story.

Included in his portfolio of saves Wednesday was a spectacular right pad stop, as Hammond did the splits while moving to his right to deny Andrew Ladd.

Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. There was no update on his condition afterward, according to Patrick Williams of NHL.com.