Senators brace for red-hot Blackhawks (Dec 20, 2016)
CHICAGO — The Ottawa Senators found a way to win on back-to-back nights by keeping things simple.
The challenge will increase in difficulty on Tuesday when the Senators play for the third time in four days against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Senators piled up plenty of scoring in a 6-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday night to put together a two-game winning streak. But against the league’s top team, the Blackhawks, Ottawa will need to find a way to beat a Chicago squad that has won five straight.
The Blackhawks (22-8-4) continued their winning ways on Sunday with a 4-1 victory over San Jose as Chicago snapped the Sharks’ four-game winning streak with four straight goals. Scott Darling, who continues to thrive in net for the injured Corey Crawford, improved to 5-2-1 in eight straight starts with 33 saves.
Crawford, who has sidelined following an emergency appendectomy, could return as early as Friday. But for now, Darling continues to get the job done as Chicago keeps winning in a midst of a stretch in which the Blackhawks have played six games in 10 days.
“I felt good,” Darling told reporters after Sunday night’s victory. “Sure, that many games and traveling, all that stuff catches up with you, But we work hard to be ready for that stuff.”
With Crawford still ailing, the Blackhawks played Sunday without one of their top offensive performers, center Artem Anisimov, who didn’t play after suffering an upper body injury Saturday night against St. Louis. Coach Joel Quenneville told reporters that Anisimov is day-to-day.
Still, Chicago managed to win again behind goals by rookies Ryan Hartman and Vincent Hinostroza as well as Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane.
“We’re just finding a way to play the right way,” Quenneville told reporters Sunday night. “You try to make sure when it’s time to press with your best, you do it, and sometimes, you have to be aware when there’s a little more balance. But you’re in that game to win it and you have to play accordingly.”
For the Senators, continuing a busy stretch will be key. But Zack Smith has fueled Ottawa’s offense of late with five points in two games. Smith tallied two goals and had an assist against the Islanders, including a short-handed empty-netter in the third period.
Like the Blackhawks, who were also playing for the second time in as many nights, the Senators scored four straight goals in their latest win as the defense took care of the rest.
“It was a good (win) especially for a back-to-back,” Smith told reporters after Sunday’s game. “We played a tight, stingy game. … We didn’t give them much.”
Mark Stone also had three points for Ottawa, which played through losing goalie Andrew Hammond to an ankle injury. Mike Condon was forced back into action after playing the night before.
“(Coming in in relief is) part of the job coming in and being ready,” Condon told reporters. “It can happen at any moment. That (win) bodes well for our confidence.”