Gonchar in, then out of Sens lineup
AEDAN HELMER, QMI Agency
|Sergei Gonchar is back in the Senators lineup Monday against the Devils. (Darren Brown/QMI Agency/Files)
OTTAWA - The Senators (19-15-5) will look to get the New Year off on the right foot after posting back-to-back wins, in overtime over Calgary and in a shootout in Buffalo, despite playing without the lead through both games.
They’ll be playing with fire if they want to turn the same trick on the red-hot New Jersey Devils (21-15-1), winners of seven of their last nine games, and sporting a 10-0-1 record in extra time.
Both teams begin 2012 in a playoff position, tied with 43 points.
Sergei Gonchar was supposed to be back into the lineup after sitting out against the Sabres for precautionary reasons after he took a puck in the face in the pre-game warmup.
There was some good-natured controversy over who lobbed the puck — Gonchar and suspect Kyle Turris both pointed the finger at Chris Neil — though all three shrugged off the incident.
“It’s one of those things that could happen to anybody,” said Gonchar, sporting a purple goose egg at the Senators’ game day skate.
“I didn’t see it coming. It’s the worst thing, you’re skating out there, you don’t expect it.... (Neil) was probably feeling worse than I was when the puck hit me.”
Matt Carkner, who scored his first goal of the season against the Sabres, was a last-minute replacement for Gonchar.
Craig Anderson gets the start in goal.
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean, who will keep Saturday’s line combinations and defence pairings intact, said he expects a tough test from the Devils.
“They’ve been playing well. (Travis) Zajac makes a big difference to the team compared with the last time we played them (a 5-4 Devils win Oct. 8 in New Jersey),” said MacLean.
“(Zach) Parise and (Ilya) Kovalchuk are still pretty good players, they have good depth up front and the guy in net (Martin Brodeur) stops the puck pretty good too.”
Jason Spezza said getting the win at home is crucial with a tough stretch upcoming with 10 of the next 13 played away from Scotiabank Place.
“It’s going to be a tough month,” said Spezza. “It’d be nice to get the win here at home... to play real good hockey consistently on the road is tough, so to get a win at home would be a good start for us. We’ll try to steal as many points as we can on the road and keep ourselves in a good spot with a good (home-heavy) schedule down the stretch.”
MacLean said there is “nothing further” to update the condition of the injured Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin.
For the Devils, Andy Greene, Jacob Josefson and former Senator Anton Volchenkov will sit out, while defenceman Matt Taormina and tough guy Eric Boulton draw into the lineup.