Ottawa is off to a solid start in December, winning 4 of their 6 games. It began with a rough 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on December 1st but since then has seen big wins against the Carolina Hurricanes (3-2) and Tampa Bay Lightning (4-0).
The Sens now find themselves in Florida tonight taking on the Panthers and kicking off a 3 game road trip. Ottawa played one of their best games on Saturday night in their 4-0 shutout win over the Lightning and will need to perform that way once again, versus the 1st place Florida Panthers. The Panthers sit 3rd in scoring with 101 goals for and only 75 against (+26). They’re coming off a 3-2 loss to the Avalanche, but are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
After arriving late due to his contract situation, Brady Tkachuk has found his stride, especially in December. Brady has 7 goals, 3 assists, and 10 points in the 6 games Ottawa’s played in November, including his first career hat-trick against the Lightning on Saturday afternoon. You can really notice a difference in Tkachuk’s play over the last few games, he’s stepped up and been much more noticeable on the ice. His confidence and leadership are exactly what this team needed after their rough start to the season. The Panthers are a tough, physical team so Brady will certainly have to continue to drag this Sens team into battle.
Brady Tkachuk deserves full value for his performance in December, but this Sens team wouldn’t be sitting with wins in 4 of their last 5 games without the play of Anton Forsberg. He’s won all 4 games that he’s started with a 2.20 goals-against average to go along with a .930 save percentage in December. Forsberg collected his first career shutout against the Lightning on Saturday in a 25 save effort but his 47 save performance in the Sens 3-2 win over the Hurricanes on December 2nd was simply remarkable. DJ Smith has been asking his goaltenders to take the net and steal a victory for this young Sens team, and Forsberg had done just that. If he can continue his stellar net-minding, there would be no reason to see Filip Gustavsson get a start on this road trip.
Some other stats through the 6 games Ottawa has played in December: Drake Batherson has 1 goal and 8 points, Josh Norris has scored 4 goals, tallied 2 assists for 6 and Thomas Chabot has 6 helpers. The Sens top line of Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson has been dominant, combining for 12 goals and 24 points through the last 6 games. Ottawa’s scored 20 goals in December, 12 coming from that top trio, and will need other lines to start helping out with the secondary scoring.
DJ Smith hasn’t announced any lineup decisions for tonight’s game, but I’d expect the same skaters from Saturday’s win over Tampa, Anton Forsberg as the starting goaltender and Jacob Bernard-Docker scratched. After tonight’s matchup against the Panthers, Ottawa faces off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, then wrap up their 3 game road trip in Philadelphia, Saturday.
By Steve Bunda