The Ottawa Senators have been better than expected after a wave of injuries seemed like it might wipe out their 2013 season. Without the biggest players on the roster, the Sens have defied expectations.
The New York Islanders also defied expectations early on, but have faded of late. Strong goaltending and one of the best top lines in hockey has the Islanders just two points behind the New York Rangers, but also in last place in a congested Atlantic Division. If they can regain the form of their early season success, the Islanders can surge back into the playoff hunt with just a few wins. They have the talent to do it, and their streaky nature suggests this will not be an easy game for the Senators.
The Ottawa Senators, in addition to spectacular goaltending, have been winning games with effort and chemistry. Young players are filling roles, and they have outworked their opponents while feeling confident that their goaltenders can bail them out. Ottawa’s goaltending tandem of Ben Bishop and Craig Anderson leads the NHL in save percentage, which fuels their offense.
On a back to back, one has to question whether they can outgrind a young New York Islanders team on Long Island. The Senators are tired, and any night Evgeni Nabokov can silence even the best offenses in hockey. With no true top-line scorers to turn to when the game gets close, the Ottawa Senators will need their best effort across the board. The Islanders are fresh and waiting for them, but the Sens might just have enough left in the tank.
I expect a close game, but I’ll give a slight edge to the Isles as the Senators enter the game tenderized by a physical game on Saturday. It will take one of the best efforts of the season for the Senators to avoid back-to-back losses.
Ottawa Senators 1 – New York Islanders 2