The Ottawa Senators accomplished a feat that many believed was impossible this season by hanging in playoff contention while their most prolific and important players were sidelined with injuries. Now, the Senators are once again ready to defy the impossible with the return of Norris winning defenseman Erik Karlsson in the lineup tonight against the Washington Capitals. Karlsson suffered a lacerated Achilles tendon back on Feb. 13 during a game against the Penguins. It was believed he would be out for the remainder of the season, but just after a mere two month – the Senators are getting their best player back on the ice.
For the Senators, the timing could not be better. Fighting for one of the remaining two playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, the Senators have been struggling of late. They come into this game against the Capitals having lost two straight games handedly against leading Eastern conference foes. However, with a win tonight the Senators can guarantee themselves a spot in the post season. If the Senators win all three of their remaining games, they will be placed in the sixth seed and will face the Capitals again during the first round of the playoffs.
For the Capitals, the resurgence of their captain and star forward Alex Ovechkin has been the difference between being one of the worst teams in the league, to winning the their division. Ovechkin assisted on Backstrom's go-ahead goal before scoring an empty-netter that capped a 5-3 win Tuesday night over Winnipeg that also clinched the third seed in the Eastern Conference. "He's played great the last couple months, as we talked about his willingness to change positions for the team and for what I think will make him a better player," Capital’s coach Adam Oates said of Ovechkin. Ovechkin has an incredible 13 goals and six assists in helping the Capitals win 10 of their last 11 games.
As the Capitals surged through the standings, the Senators were falling like heavy bricks. Looking at the long term numbers, the Senators season has been crumbling as of late, and the return of Karlsson may be the only thing that can salvage this season for Ottawa. The Sens have only scored two goals in its last two games; an area where Karlsson will be an immediate help. Furthermore, the Senators have only converted 3 of 44 power plays during a stretch where they have lost seven of their last 11 games. A true sign of their anemic offense is that Ottawa has failed to tally more than three goals in any of its last 13 games.
The last time the Senators won came from a victory over the Capitals one week ago at home in Ottawa. They key to victory for the Senators in that game, as will be in this game, was their Penalty Kill – which is now ranked best among the league. Staying out of the Penalty Box and not allowing the Capitals to utilize their incredible Power Play is the surest way for the Senators to find victory tonight. Failing that, their Penalty Kill will have to be the best if they find themselves in a parade to the Penalty Box all night. After two humiliating losses to the Penguins and Maple Leafs, the tone from the Senators has been serious and all business. Add the return of Erik Karlsson and a playoff clinching game on the line, the Senators should find themselves the victor in tonight’s contest.
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