In its most recent game, last Saturday the Ottawa Senators began their All-Star break by beating the high-flying Calgary Flames 5-2. The Senators were led by Connor Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Brady Tkachuk who each scored a goal and an assist. In addition, Colin White and Chris Tierney each scored a goal and Anthony Duclair, Artem Anisimov, Tyler Ennis, Mikkel Boedker, and Mike Reilly each recorded an assist.
It was a sound whacking of a team that came to town looking to leave first in the Pacific Division but now head into the All-Star bye week in second place. Obviously, the game was disappointing for one Tkachuk brother (Matthew is on the Flames) and encouraging for the other Tkachuk brother (Brady is on the Senators).
In a nice move to recognize the two brothers playing against each other, the referee threw both regularly-scheduled centers out of the opening faceoff and replaced them with the brothers so they could take the game’s first faceoff. Good form!
As both teams engage in either All-Star festivities or take a needed and appreciated rest, I want to keep Senators fans appraised of the news and rumors emerging from the organization.
Item One: Anders Nilsson Is Having a Tough Go of It
Senators’ goalie Anders Nilsson is suffering from a concussion that sadly doesn’t seem to be improving. In fact, it seems that he’s suffered a setback when he faced shots during a New Year’s Day practice. That’s no way to bring in the New Year.
Currently, there’s no clear timetable for a return and he hasn’t even resumed skating. Concussions are sometimes career-threatening, and I hope that’s not the case for Nilsson.
In commenting on Nilsson’s injury, head coach D.J. Smith noted, “He’s [Nilsson] continuing to go through the rehab he does here. At this point, he’s not ready to return. Hopefully, this week off will give him some more time and we can get him back. It’s a big hole and he’s played some really good hockey for us, but we wouldn’t have had a look at (Hogberg) if he hadn’t gone out.”
Nilsson suffered his injury in mid-December, which has now caused him to miss his 14th straight game. Obviously, the Senators hope he can get healthy over the upcoming All-Star break. In the meantime, Marcus Hogberg (who’s been playing well) and Craig Anderson (whose last game was much better) will handle goaltending duties.
I look for Hogberg to take on most of the work for two reasons. From the way Smith is playing him, it seems he believes Hogberg is the goalie of the future for the Senators. As well, Anderson’s not been playing that well. Rumors suggest that the Senators are trying to move him but aren’t having much luck.
Item Two: Vladislav Namestnikov Has Scored in Two Straight Games
With a goal and an assist against the Flames, Vladislav Namestnikov has now scored in two straight games. It isn’t the longest scoring streak, but the rebuilding Senators will be happy with what they get.
The Senators acquired Namestnikov from the New York Rangers for defenceman Nick Ebert and Ottawa’s fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft in October. When he was acquired, the 26-year-old forward had scored 66 goals when 92 assists for 158 points in 362 career NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Rangers.
His career highs were 22 goals and 48 points in 81 games split between Tampa Bay and New York in 2017-18. This season, with the Senators he’s scored 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in 43 games.
After being the Lightning’s first-round pick (27th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he was traded to the Rangers at the 2018 trade deadline. Although Namestnikov struggled in New York, he’s fitting in well in Ottawa. It was a low-risk move to get him and the Rangers actually retained just under 20% of his salary to move him. He’ll likely stay as part of the team’s rebuild.
Item Three: Brady Tkachuk Outscores Big Brother Matthew
In the battle of the brothers, Brady scored a goal and an assist but Matthew didn’t get a point. The younger Tkachuk (Brady) is on pace to better his point total from last season (45) and he’s quickly becoming one of the Senators’ leaders. He has a bright future with the team and given his brother’s recent chippie and controversial hits against Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers the Senators are lucky to have Brady over Matthew – but that’s just my bias showing.
Item Four: Senators Player Moves Back to Belleville
The Senators sent Filip Chlapik, Drake Batherson, and Rudolfs Balcers back to the AHL Belleville Senators during the All-Star bye week.
Chlapik had played in four games since being promoted to Ottawa but hasn’t scored. The 22-year-old will get more experience playing rather than sitting and should re-join the Senators before the January 27th game.
The 21-year-old Batherson has scored two points in eight games this season with the Senators and, like Chlapik, is better off playing in Belleville than resting during the bye week. He, too, should rejoin the big club before January 27.
The same with Balcers, who’ll get lots of ice time in Belleville during the bye week. Again, he too should come back for the game on January 27.
Where Are the Senators at This Point in the Season?
The Senators hit the All-Star bye week with a 17-23-8 record, which is far better than most hockey thinkers thought the team would do. It’s clearly a rebuilding season, with some younger players stepping up, some having career seasons, and perhaps some trades on the horizon.
The team’s record in its last 10 games is 1-5-4. Although that’s not great, the upside is that the team has garnered six points in those 10 games – and that’s not bad. They are playing tough and working hard. Coach Smith has the team trying, and, personally, this team is fast becoming one of my favorites.
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