The New York Rangers are skating into Ottawa to play the Senators. They come in with two problems to overcome. First, they would like to win two straight games to open the season, but that hasn’t happened in four seasons. Second, they’re looking to stop their recent struggles playing in Ottawa.
The Rangers have a five-game road-losing streak to the Senators. They’d like that to end. However, the Senators are looking for their first win of the season after losing on the road in Toronto 5-3 against the Maple Leafs.
In this compilation of Senators’ team news, which here at NHLTradeTalk.com we will do at least once weekly, we’ll try to bring you up to date on what’s happening with the Senators.
Item One: Former Senators Mika Zibanejad Is Back in Town
Swedish forward Mika Zibanejad, who played two full seasons with the Senators and bounced around in their farm system for a few more seasons, is back in town. The 26-year-old Zibanejad, who was chosen sixth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, never really quite made it with the Senators.
Eventually, he was traded to the New York Rangers for Derick Brassard in 2016. Obviously, it’s one of the stories that haunts the team that traded the young potential star who hadn’t yet overcome his inconsistencies. He’s done that with the Rangers, where he’s experienced success and this taken on leadership – he’s currently an alternate captain on the team.
In fact, during his 82-game 2018–19 NHL season, he scored 30 goals, 44 assists, for 77 points. That’s almost a point-a-game pace.
Zibanejad started this season strong as well, with a goal with three assists against the Winnipeg Jets in the Rangers’ opening night home victory. For many Ottawa Senators fans, Zibanejad was the precursor to a similar situation highly-promising center prospect Logan Brown is currently experiencing with the team.
Zibanejad finally appears to have reached the potential so many fans expected. Sadly, it’s with another team. Ottawa fans will have a chance to see him play at Canadian Tire Centre in Saturday’s home opener. Who to root for?
Item Two: Does Logan Brown Need More Seasoning?
Logan Brown, the 6-foot-6 center selected 11th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, was recently assigned to the Senators’ AHL Belleville affiliate during the final round of training camp cuts. His agent, Andy Scott, wasn’t happy and spoke his mind about the way he believed the Senators have treated Brown. Simply said, Scott doesn’t believe the team has given Brown the respect worthy of his draft status.
As Brown announced during an extensive interview on TSN 1200’s Offside show with Eric Macramalla earlier this week, “We have never seen an early first-round selection met with such resistance by the club that drafted them.”
Scott added, “From Day 1, I’ve seen Logan have to grind, claw and work his tail off for every morsel of opportunity that he’s been provided. Whereas with some of these other guys, these elite players like Logan, it’s a little bit easier.” Scott believed the issue started with former coach Guy Boucher, but it hasn’t gotten better with D.J. Smith.
The Senators’ general manager obviously felt forced to respond, and Pierre Dorion’s response was to try to calm the situation. Although he obviously wouldn’t act upon Scott’s comments, he did say: “First and foremost, when it comes to Logan Brown, we don’t have a more talented center in our organization. If you look at the four that we have playing for us right now and any player playing in Belleville, we don’t have a center that’s more talented than him.”
So here it is. No one has made any demands or created any bottom lines. Scott’s last comments were that he expects his client to get an opportunity soon to play under new Senators coach Smith soon enough.
Item Three: Erik Brannstrom Is Fortunate Not to Be Injured in Maple Leafs Accident
Erik Brannstrom is lucky to have avoided serious injury during the last seconds of the team’s 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs. Working hard to try to avoid another goal – Auston Matthews’ open-net tap-in – he blocked Matthews off the puck, pushing him to the ice. However, as Matthews fell, his skate came up and nicked Brannstrom in the face.
The result? Eight stitches to close the wound he suffered around his eye. It was a scary play, and Brannstrom is lucky to have escaped with such a modest injury.
As he noted, “It was close to the eye so I got lucky there. I saw all the blood after and I didn’t know if it was just a nose bleed or a cut or what.”
The young defender received praise from head coach Smith for working until the end of the game, as well as his toughness for not missing a day of practice. Smith issued this, “I’ve seen him be competitive right through training camp and that’s why he’s here.”
He added, “I thought he was great last night and I thought he was good again today in practice. He had stitches in his face and came out there and never said a word about missing practice. This kid just wants to be a hockey player.”
Item Four: Brady Tkachuk Just Keeps on Scoring
Brady Tkachuk scored a goal and added six hits in the Senators 5-3 loss to Toronto. Interestingly, Tkachuk’s goal was the first NHL goal of the entire 2019-20 season, and it came only 25 seconds into Wednesday’s opener. The 6-foot-3, 196-pound left-winger had a great rookie season, scoring 22 goals, 23 assists, for 45 points in 69 games as a teenager last season. That placed him second in the league in rookie scoring to Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson.
And, he started this season just as strongly as a 20-year-old. Let’s hope the second-year player forms a great line for the Senators. And, being a Connor Brown fan, I hope Brown’s a part of the action.
What’s Next for the Ottawa Senators?
As noted earlier, the Senators meet the Rangers in each team’s second game of the season. Neither team is ranked very highly in the NHL’s power rankings to start the season, so it will be an interesting game for two teams not likely to make the playoffs.
I’m predicting a high-scoring, with the Senators beating the Rangers 6-3.
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