Putting yesterday afternoon’s loss to the Sharks aside, the Senators practiced this afternoon and unveiled some new line combinations that will be used tomorrow night in Chicago.
First and foremost, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek Bobby will be reunited with the Bobby Ryan. This will mark the first time since Saturday, October 5th in which Ryan has played regular minutes at even-strength with Ottawa’s first line center.
Since that game, Ryan played with Stephane Da Costa in Los Angeles before being moved to the second line with Kyle Turris – where he has enjoyed more success.
Stability has been somewhat of an issue for Ottawa’s first line this season. As you can see from Left Wing Lock’s line combination tool, Cory Conacher, Ryan, and Greening have all seen time alongside Spezza and Michalek.
Intriguingly, Conacher -- man who started the season on the second line with Turris and MacArthur– has been slotted in onto the team’s third line alongside Zack Smith and Chris Neil.
And the phenom Mika Zibanejad will take Conacher’s spot playing on Ottawa’s puck possession second line.
Colin Greening, the man who the organization puzzlingly gave a four-year, $2.6 million per season extension to over the summer, now finds himself on a line with Derek Grant and Erik Condra.
Secondary scoring has been a large problem for a team that has exclusively relied upon Turris, Ryan, Spezza and Karlsson to provide the offence.
Eventually, the shooting percentages of Spezza (25.2%) and Ryan (18.2%) will normalize and they’ll need their others to step up their game. Although the play of wingers like MacArthur (0 goals. 5 points) and Conacher (2 goals, 3 points) has been sufficient, at some point possession needs to turn into production – or else you just end up having more Erik Condras. Conversely, Michalek (2 goals, 6 points) and Greening (0 goals, 3 points) in particular have been passengers on most nights – although in fairness to Michalek, there’s no way of knowing how much he is affected or being bothered by his knee.
Line combinations weren’t the biggest story today though. A half hour players only meeting delayed the start of today’s practice.
While the players later expressed their dissatisfaction with the way that they’ve consistently been falling behind early on the scoreboard in games, it was Erik Karlsson’s colourful comments that really generated some mainstream attention:
Erik Karlsson says it's hard to live up to media expectations. "You guys have talked about me like I'm some (effing) god or something."— Wayne Scanlan (@HockeyScanner) October 28, 2013
Hmm, I don’t think Erik is referring to having his name constantly be mentioned in the same sentence as Achilles, but it’s puzzling to see him act so sensitively.
I mean, yeah, my expectations of him are pretty high - he needs to develop time travel so we can go back in time and undo the Heatley/Hossa trade so it's possible that the organization can re-sign Zdeno Chara -- but unless I missed something, I haven’t really seen him be criticized or made out to be the second coming of Bobby Orr.
Sure, his costly turnover on the power play that resulted in a San Jose Sharks goal was pointed out in the papers, but taking the media to task for pointing out mistakes isn’t a battle that he’s ever going to win.
As a Norris Trophy winning defenceman who earns $6.5 million per season, it comes with the territory. In saying that, I don’t believe that he has or should be placed on some pedestal, he’s just an incredibly gifted hockey player who should be held accountable for his on-ice play.
Besides, he’s not God. He’s more like a Moses who parts the opposition’s forecheckers.
If anything, his comment makes me wonder if he was channeling a little bit of Alfie here – openly venting frustrations because he knew being put on a God-like pedestal bothered Alfie too.
Vanek for Moulson
Last night the New York Islanders made a surprising move sending Matt Moulson, a 2014 first round pick and a 2015 second rounder to the Buffalo Sabres for Thomas Vanek.
It’s the latest move in Darcy Regier’s continuous stockpiling of future assets. As Elliotte Friedman noted, the Sabres will now have “nine selections in the first two rounds of the next two drafts.”
With other divisional rivals like the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning already boasting deep farm systems, seeing the Sabres enrich their own while going into full tank mode and giving themselves fantastic odds of landing Conor McDavid in 2015 is sickening.
Of course it remains to be seen how well the Sabres will draft and develop their talent, but I want more of those Ville Leino-esque moves damnit!
Ben Bishop Thriving in Tampa
Don’t look now but Ben Bishop (7-1-0, 2.47 GAA and a .914 SV%) has helped vault the Tampa Bay Lightning into first place in the Atlantic Division.
You didn’t have to be prescient to realize at the time of the trade that it probably was not and is not in Ottawa’s best interests to address a substantial hole on future divisional rival’s roster, but the play of Cory Conacher has helped make up for it. He will need to start to picking up the points however to keep the revisionists quiet though.