A few quick hits:
Thursday evening the Ottawa Senators host their first regular season game in 588 days with fans. It’ll be the team’s first since March 5, 2020, a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders – a game which also featured the return of Jean-Gabriel Pageau who was dealt by the Senators just 10 days earlier.
Being the first game with what will be a close to a capacity crowd, eyes will not only be focused on the ice between the Senators and their opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs, but also off the ice.
Event staff and security will be put to the test. How well will the process go to get 17,000-18,000 people shuttled into the building? It was quick and easy for preseason, and admittedly smooth, but it was only one-third the number of fans entering the building.
Here’s hoping for everyone’s sake, hiccups are few. Staff have been hard at work in preparedness for opening night.
Brady Tkachuk missed the Senators’ 2018 home-opener with a groin strain. Unfortunately, Tkachuk will miss his second opener, but for another reason. The 22-year old remains a restricted free agent. Though things can change quickly, the two sides appear to have drawn a line in the sand that neither may budge on.
The belief is the Tkachuk’s Newport group prefer a three-year bridge deal similar to the contract Elias Pettersson recently signed with the Vancouver Canucks. While the Senators want to lock up the St. Louis resident long term.
Each entity has their own reasons; Tkachuk wants to bank on himself on a three-year contract. Upon completion, Tkachuk will be one season removed from unrestricted free agency and will be eligible to file for arbitration. Potentially, Tkachuk can put himself in a position to break the bank.
The Senators’ reason for a long term contract is understandable. The club wants a guarantee from Tkachuk that he’ll be in the fold and grow with the Senators’ core of Drake Batherson, Thomas Chabot, Josh Norris.
The team will announce their leadership group for the 2021-22 campaign Thursday. At this point, it doesn’t appear naming a captain for the current season is on the table.
As of Wednesday morning, the Senators’ opening night lineup was incomplete.
Goaltender Matt Murray missed a few days after coming down with a cold. However, Murray made it through practice. Head coach D.J. Smith said post-practice, he’ll defer to goalie coach Zac Bierk prior to naming his starter to face the Maple Leafs. If Murray is unable to go, Anton Forsberg will start.
Then there’s the main lineup itself. Smith intimated icing a team comprised of 11 forwards/seven defenseman. The D-pairs remain unsettled, and Smith could elect to dress Erik Brannstrom and utilize him on the power play. Brannstrom and newcomer Michael Del Zotto appeared to be the odd men out based on morning practice lines.
Speaking of newcomers; the club’s latest acquisition, forward Curtis Sanford may also be a healthy scratch.
Wednesday practice lines:
Stützle- Norris- Batherson
Paul- Pinto- Brown
Formenton- Tierney- Ennis
Kelly- Shaw- Sabourin
Del Zotto- Brannstrom
— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) October 13, 2021
So is “the rebuild over?” Will this season be one of “unparalleled success?”
We shall find out soon enough in this, the 29th edition of the Ottawa Senators.