Penguins hope Brassard can replace Crosby against Senators
OTTAWA -- The timing is good for the Ottawa Senators to be facing a team that has traditionally given them trouble.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (7-7-3) will be without captain Sidney Crosby and in a two-game slide that has left them last in the Eastern Conference when they provide the opposition Saturday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
Crosby, who has 43 points in 38 career games against the Senators, is expected to miss a week with an upper-body injury. The Penguins are hopeful for the return of Derick Brassard, who has missed three weeks with a lower-body injury, to help fill the void.
"One of the things that we talked about when we acquired Brass was this very scenario," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday. "To have a guy who's as talented as he is, who has a track record of being a proven top-six center in this league, that's encouraging from our standpoint."
Brassard, who will be a game-time decision, was acquired from the Senators in a three-team trade at last February's deadline. It would be the first time he has faced the his former team since the deal.
Born and raised just outside of Ottawa, Brassard had a goal and four assists in eight games before going down.
"I liked the way I started the season," Brassard told the Post-Gazette. "I felt like I had a stretch of time where I was producing offense, but nothing was going in. Now I have to start from scratch, go out there with an open mind, play free and have fun."
If history between the teams holds true, it will be an enjoyable evening for the Penguins. Ottawa has won just 36 of 100 regular-season games against Pittsburgh and was 0-3-0 against them in 2017-18.
This season's Senators (8-8-3) have played well on home ice, where they've posted a 6-3-2 record. They've also won two of their last three games, including a 2-1 decision over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday that saw goalie Craig Anderson make two penalty shot saves in the third period.
Anderson, who has appeared in all but one game to date, will make the start on Saturday. Against the Penguins, he has a 5-10-3 career record.
Anderson shared the spotlight in the victory over the Red Wings, as rookie Drake Batherson scored with his first shot in his first NHL game and impressive first-round pick Brady Tkachuk engaged in his first NHL fight. Tkachuk objected to liberties taken on Mark Stone by Red Wings winger Justin Abdelkader.
With four goals and four assists in eight games, he continues shows traits that made his dad, Keith Tkachuk, such a dangerous weapon for 1,200 NHL games.
"I just thought it was a high hit, especially on my landlord," Tkachuk, who has been living at Stone's house, told Postmedia on Friday. "So that's me paying my rent."
Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot didn't practice on Friday, but he is expected to be in the lineup against the Penguins. Chabot, who has 22 points in 19 games, had one of his best outings of the season against Detroit. His tidy defensive zone play included three blocked shots, while he also had six shots on the Detroit goal in his 27 minutes of ice time.
"He wants it so bad, he wants to be so good in all phases of the game," coach Guy Boucher told Postmedia. "I'm impressed. I'm really pleased with his development on both sides of the ice, and he has to deal with really good players. It's not like we're hiding him now.