Seems like it's becoming a regular feature around here to feature the Ottawa Senators in Three Questions - although after tonight we won't see the Senators again until the Hurricanes make a return appearance in Canada's capital on April 16. Once again, here's the estimable Peter Raaymakers of Silver Seven to preview tonight's game from the Sens' perspective.
- What one player can the Senators least afford to lose right now to injury? Consider not only what the player himself has done this year, but also the ripple effect that removing him from the lineup would cause.
Without a doubt, that player is Erik Karlsson. The Senators blue line already has three rookie defencemen in and out of the lineup (Patrick Wiercioch, Mark Borowiecki, and Andre Benoit, although the letter is technically too old to be considered a rookie), and two guys whose best days are behind them (Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar). Karlsson isn't just the straw that stirs the drink back there, he's basically the whole drink. On top of his work on the back-end, he's also Ottawa's primary offensive catalyst now that Jason Spezza's out with his injury. So as Karlsson goes, so go the Senators.
- Craig Anderson is still parked on top of the save percentage standings, so it's understandable that he's playing just about every night. How will Paul MacLean handle this going forward? Does he risk causing burnout in the playoffs if Anderson plays 40+ games this year, or does he just ride Anderson as long as he can and hope he stays hot?
I suppose it's possible that the lack of a training camp might increase the odds of burnout, but I don't think it's too likely--Anderson's long been a guy who can make a lot of starts, and in fact he usually plays best with a higher workload (he played 71 games in 2009-10 when he almost single-handedly got the Avalanche into the playoffs).
But I don't think it will be an issue, anyway, because one of these days Ben Bishop is going to get a start. He's a good goalie, he's just stuck behind a really good one. Also, the Sens need to play Bishop if they're going to build up his trade value, but I'm pretty sure they also need to give him a set number of games in order to retain his RFA rights, as well.
- Looking to the future: whenever Daniel Alfredsson hangs 'em up, who is the most likely to take over as captain - or will there be a vacancy similar to the Habs' 2009-10 season when no one replaced Saku Koivu for a year?
I think there will be a replacement immediately, although I guess it's possible the team might leave it vacant as a symbolic gesture. But it seems highly likely that Spezza is the next captain of this team. He's matured significantly in the last five years (especially since Dany Heatley's trade request), and looks primed for the responsibility.