Winless in seven games, sitting at the bottom of the North Division, the Ottawa Senators have nowhere to go but up.
The team hopes to get back on track Sunday in Edmonton, a club they’ll face in four of their next six games.
Despite getting seemingly crushed 16-3 in their three-game set versus the Canucks, shot totals didn’t belie such a drubbing. The Senators outshot Vancouver 116-95, including firing 23 in the first period at Thatcher Demko Wednesday – resulting in only one goal – followed up by outshooting the Canucks 30-19 Thursday, notching only one marker against Braden Holtby.
“I thought that last game in Vancouver, we played hard. We created our own chances. You have got to give credit to both their goalies, (Thatcher) Demko, and (Braden) Holtby. We put up a lot of shots. They made a lot of good saves. It’s going to come, and it’s going to come in bunches,” Brady Tkachuk said post-practice Saturday.
Even head coach D.J. Smith was pleased with the way his team finished out the third period Thursday. Smith juggled his lines, and will open with the same trios versus the Oilers who upended the Maple Leafs Saturday on a Connor McDavid overtime goal.
“I liked their work ethic. I liked the way they stayed on pucks. I thought there was some chemistry. I thought it was Timmy’s best game – certainly with Chris (Tierney), a veteran centreman that can make plays as well, who can help him through it. I think Connor Brown up with (Josh) Norris and Chuckie (Brady Tkachuk) did a real nice job as well. They had a bunch of chances,” added the Senators’ bench boss.
“The (Colin) White line has been really good for us. You know White has had some chances. Nick Paul and (Evgenni) Dadonov have been solid. So I think it gives us a more balanced attack than just having the one line loaded up.”
Stützle who has one goal in five games felt comfortable playing alongside Batherson, but acknowledges he’s still getting his feet wet in the NHL.
The 19-year old added, “I really like playing with Drake. He’s a great skater as well. He has all the abilities to be a great player. I think both of us are very young and have a lot to work on. It takes a little bit every time. Everything is new. The system is new. It’s a totally different game than from Germany and World Junior. I try to get used to it as fast as possible. I think the last game was one of my best games I’ve played this season.
Stützle is looking forward to playing against his idol, reigning NHL MVP Leon Draisaitl.
Making everyone on the Saturday’s Zoom call feel a little bit old, Stützle chimed in, “I really like Connor McDavid playing with (Leon) Draisaitl since I was young. I really liked that. The way he plays, the way he goes on and off the ice, he helps a lot of young players. He’s an idol for every German hockey player. Right now he’s getting known in the world, and everybody knows him.”
Draisaitl reached out to his fellow German on a pair of occasions since he was drafted by the Senators in October.
“We texted a couple of times. He just wanted to make sure to wish me a lot of luck. And if I had any questions to reach out to him,” noted Stützle.
The Oilers will be a tough out for the Senators. McDavid will be coming off a game where he scored two highlight-reel goals.
Connor McDavid has done it again pic.twitter.com/Qtb4Tvoajg
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 31, 2021
In preparation for the Oilers, Tkachuk was more focused on his team’s play than that of the opposition, “Everyone knows the Edmonton roster has two of the top five players in the league. Of course, you have to be careful and extra cautious when they’re on the ice. I think during these games, you have to focus on ourselves, and just do our own jobs. Just overall we have to play better, that’s the confidence in our room…We are going to get out of this. There’s no pressure on ourselves. We know we’re right there. We played better last game. We have to build off that.”
While the Senators’ forward trios are set, the defense pairings will remain undecided until Sunday morning.
Thomas Chabot crashed heavily into the post behind Demko late in the third period Thursday. Losing Chabot will be a blow to an already-depleted back end.
Christian Wolanin remains on Injured Reserve for at least a few more days with a lower-body injury, Smith confirmed Artem Zub will see his first NHL action if Chabot can’t go.
Defenseman Erik Gudbranson gave fullpresshockey.com a personal scouting report on the 25-year old Russian, “He’s a good player, really strong. He’s got a good stick, positionally very sound. He looks good at the offensive zone blue line. I’m excited to see what he brings to the table. As I said, he’s a really strong dude. He’ll be good in front of the net, boxing guys out.”
There’s still a chance Zub plays anyway. However, the Senators head coach wasn’t tipping his hand Saturday.