The first outdoor game of the 2017-18 season takes place on Saturday night in at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa when the Ottawa Senators host the Montreal Canadiens.
Both teams are looking for some kind of a spark to break out of their early season slumps that have them starting to get buried in the Eastern Conference standings. Even with those slow starts there remains plenty of intrigue with this game.
Let’s start with the fact that both teams — both of which were in the playoffs just last season — are absolutely desperate for points right now.
The Senators, who were just one shot away from being in the Stanley Cup Final a season ago, have won just two of their past 14 games and find themselves in 15th place in the East, 10 points out of a Wild Card spot and seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
As if the problems on the ice are not bad enough, there is plenty of off-ice drama surrounding them. And it seems to keep getting worse.
The long-term future of their only superstar, defenseman Erik Karlsson, remains in doubt and with each passing day it seems as if his time in Canada’s capital city is coming closer and closer to ending. A free agent after next season, Karlsson has made it clear he is not looking to take a discount on his next contract. Then came the report that he was one of the many Senators that was asked to give his no-trade list.
As if all of that wasn’t ominous enough, team owner Eugene Melnyk spoke publicly on Friday, the day before what should be one of the highlights of the team’s 2017-18 season, and played the relocation card.
Other than all of that, everything is going wonderfully for the Senators.
On the other side of the ice we have the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens enter play on Saturday sitting just two points back of the Bruins for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, but have also played three additional games.
The Canadiens have been a difficult team to get a grasp on this season because they keep running so hot and cold.
After starting the season on a 1-6-1 run, they followed that up by going 7-3 over their next 10. Then they lost five in a row. Then they won five in a row. Which was then followed by a three-game losing streak. You never know which Canadiens team you are going to get on a given night or over a given period of time. The only thing consistent about them this season has been their inconsistency.
Now they enter play on Saturday night against a struggling Senators team that is dealing with plenty of drama off the ice.
Outdoor games always have a little extra appeal to them, but this one is especially big given how much the two teams need the points.