The Senators are off to a slow 1-4-0 start through five games, but that hasn’t been the only factor contributing to the team’s low attendance numbers to start the year. Ottawa drew just 9,204 fans to their home game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues -- their lowest total since moving to their current arena in 1996. The Senators, a once-proud organization representing Canada’s capital, ranked 30th out of 31 NHL teams in average attendance at just 11,715. There is a segment of the fan base that has vowed they won’t go to games unless owner Eugene Melnyk sells the team. Melnyk has been associated with a myriad of off-ice litigations and the departure of popular stars, which has made him unpopular in Ottawa. Can the Senators tune out the distractions and get back on the winning track in Vegas on Thursday night?
Senators searching for answers on power playOttawa has struggled to start the season, winning just one of their first five games. After opening the season with a three-game losing streak, the Senators pulled off an unlikely upset over the Tampa Bay Lightning before being shutout in their last game against the Minnesota Wild on Monday night. Craig Anderson stopped 33 of the 34 shots that he faced on the evening, but Ottawa was outshot 35 to 26 on the night and the Senators were unable to capitalize on five power play opportunities in the 2-0 loss.
“It’s going to be a huge game on Thursday…it’s going to be a big test for us.”— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) October 16, 2019
Brady Tkachuk and the #Sens prepare to face the Vegas Golden Knights tomorrow at T-Mobile Arena. pic.twitter.com/wqEQUZBIyB
Anderson is scheduled to be back between the pipes for the Sens on Thursday night in Vegas. The 38-year-old is 1-3-0 with a 3.05 GAA and .906 save percentage so far this season, but he’s allowed two goals or less in each of his last two starts. The veteran is hoping to prove doubters wrong and earn his ice time in the final year of his contract in Ottawa. Anderson started twice against the Golden Knights last season, going 0-1-1 and allowing nine goals in those matchups. He finished with a 4.53 GAA and .905 save percentage in two games against Vegas last year.
The Senators are trying to come up with answers for their power play unit after going 0-for-17 with the man advantage to start the season. Head coach D.J. Smith and his staff are expected to roll out changes to the power play units ahead of Thursday’s game at T-Mobile Arena. Smith could look at adding center Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the power play, but no changes have been made official at this point. Ottawa comes in scoring 2.40 goals per game and allowing 3.80 goals per contest. While they have yet to convert on the power play, the Senators have performed well on the penalty kill, fending off 81.8 percent of their penalties through five games.
Golden Knights playing faster in 2019-20Vegas snapped a two-game win streak on Tuesday evening losing at home to the Nashville Predators 5-2. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed five goals on 39 shots, while Reilly Smith and Mark Stone both scored their fifth goal in the game to lead all Golden Knights’ players on the season. Stone also dropped his gloves and got into it with Predator’s star Roman Josi in what turned out to be a star-studded bout. According to Hockey Reference, it was just the third fight of Stone’s career, but he still found a way to drop Josi with a single punch. Through seven games, Stone is tied for the team lead in goals (5) and leads the team in total points with 10. The former Senator will return to the Canadian Tire Center on Thursday, where he debuted with the Senators back in 2012-13.
The Golden Knights’ first line is playing faster than they were in 2018-19 and it seems to be working. William Karlsson and Reilly Smith are a part of a first line that sports an insane 74.12 percent expected goals share through six games. They’ve also put in work on the penalty kill, sharing the ice for two shorthanded goals, while only allowing one power play goal so far this year.
Fleury is expected to patrol the crease for the Golden Knights on Thursday. He comes in with a 4-2-0 record to go along with a 2.56 GAA and .922 save percentage in seven games (six starts). The veteran goaltender started twice against Ottawa last season, going 2-0 with a 2.94 GAA and .885 save percentage in those matchups.
- Golden Knights are 2-7 in their last 9 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
- Golden Knights are 1-4 in their last 5 vs. Atlantic.
- Golden Knights are 1-5 in their last 6 vs. Eastern Conference.