December 30, 2008
Sens worry coach MacTOilers face a struggling team that could be due for a win
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA
The Ottawa Senators have been everyone's free space on the bingo card lately -- especially on the road, where they've lost 12 straight games -- but the Edmonton Oilers are still a wary bunch heading into tonight's game at Rexall Place.
Especially after learning that winger Ales Hemsky, still feeling the effects of a Jordin Tootoo hit on Sunday, won't be in the lineup.
"I wish he wouldn't take those heavy hits," head coach Craig MacTavish said after the morning skate. "You wish some guys would, but he's not one of them. But that's the way he plays the game; he wants the puck in areas nobody else wants the puck.
"Tootoo did what he does, finished his check hard and ended up getting Hemmer in the nose with his shoulder."
Hemsky finished the Nashville game, but things began swelling up the next day.
"He's had trouble breathing the last couple of days, hasn't slept," said MacTavish. "He can't play tonight and probably not tomorrow (in Calgary) either."
Losing their leading scorer is a significant blow, but at least it happened while the club is on a bit of a roll, having won three straight games.
"It's never a good time to lose your best forward, but we're in better shape right now than we have been at any point in the year with other guys contributing offensively," said MacTavish, who watched Sam Gagner and Erik Cole deliver breakout games against Nashville.
"We can offset that loss better than at any other point."
But the Senators, who've already lost the first three games (in Philadelphia, Calgary and Vancouver) of their current eight-game road trip, are talented, snarly and long overdue, which has the Oilers on full alert.
"I guess you approach it like they've won 12 in a row," said defenceman Sheldon Souray, who knows the Sens inside and out from his Montreal Canadiens days.
"They're a talented team, they've been the best team out east for a while. It's a little surprising to see them not near the top of the standings but we all know how fast that can change. One game can turn things around.
"Look at us, we took a pretty bad beating at home a few games ago and we've kind of regrouped since then. It only takes one game. We just want to make sure tonight is not the game that they get it turned around."
"These games scare everybody," added MacTavish. "They're going to be focused. They're coming hard, they've got the ingredients, they've done it in the past, the danger is there. It's probably going to be a one-goal game again like the rest of them."
Edmonton will start Mathieu Garon in net tonight. It‚ll be his first appearance since he got the hook five goals into a 9-2 loss to Chicago on Dec. 16.
"We all know how tough it is to win if you get outplayed in that position," said MacTavish. "It's a lot of responsibility a lot of pressure on the goaltenders, but he's done it before, he's ready for a start. I think he's going to be fine. He's a good, solid goaltender. I'm not afraid of him in the net whatsoever."