Panthers, Senators try to overcome injuries
OTTAWA — Two teams that should be in foul moods will take their frustrations out on each other Saturday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
The Ottawa Senators (10-6-1) suffered their worst defeat of the season when they fell 5-1 to the Nashville Predators on home ice Thursday. Four hours away on the same night, the Florida Panthers (8-8-1) were also taking their worst beating when they lost 6-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We didn't compete hard enough and Toronto put it to us pretty good,” said coach Gerard Gallant after the third stop in a four-game road trip for the Panthers. “There was nothing good about our game tonight. A lot of guys didn't play good hockey at all. … There was no compete, not battle level.”
The Panthers, who got their only goal from defenseman Aaron Ekblad, used backup goalie James Reimer against his former team. Expected to get the call in Ottawa will be Roberto Luongo, who has a 14-14-1 career record versus the Senators.
Down the ice from him in the Senators net will be Craig Anderson, who returned to the team Friday after taking a one-day leave to be with his wife Nicholle as she battles cancer.
Anderson is off to an 8-3-1 start with a goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.934) that ranks among the league leaders.
“Andy's been an incredible inspiration to all of us the way he's been able to deal with what Nicholle is going through,” said assistant captain Dion Phaneuf. “There's no words to describe what he's done for our team. Being so unselfish and coming back to our team at such a tough time, and playing the way that he has, is incredible. It just speaks to the character of him and he's got all the support in the world from us.”
Anderson spent three seasons with the Panthers (2006-09) and owns a 13-6-2 record against his old team.
While the Panthers are without injured key players Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Alex Petrovic, the Senators aren't sure who they'll have available Saturday night.
Winger Bobby Ryan was hit in the hand with a shot during the Nashville game and it appears he could miss some time. Winger Mike Hoffman didn't play Thursday because of a lower body injury and is day-to-day, while winger Chris Neil missed Friday's practice with an unspecified issue and his status is also up in the air.
“It's tough,” said coach Guy Boucher. “You look at your lineup and you plug some holes, but in reality you can't ask some guys to be a top six forward when you're a fourth liner. We've got to figure out a way to use the players on the roster so that we put guys at least in the chairs that they can manage so we have the best look possible.”
The two teams split the season series last year, 2-2-1.