After Monday night’s 7-1 drubbing by the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith promised there would be lineup changes on the horizon.
True to his word, there was line juggling at Tuesday afternoon’s practice at Rogers Arena ahead of Wednesday night’s rematch with the Canucks.
“We got some guys that maybe are taking for granted positions in the NHL and we've got to find the right combination, said Smith after the Vancouver loss. “And we've got to give some other guys some opportunity to see if they want to play a little harder than some of the guys that are playing now.”
The Chuck Norris Line (Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson) and the BTS Line (Tim Stützle, Chris Tierney, Connor Brown) remained intact, but Colin White goes from the doghouse to centring the second line with Nick Paul and Evgenii Dadonov.
Senators fans have been clamouring to see the 25-year-old White get back into the lineup on a more permanent basis. The struggling centre has been a healthy scratch in four of Ottawa’s first six games this season and when he has been in the lineup, White has been used sparingly on the fourth line. Smith is hoping he might be able to find his game playing with higher-end talent.
“He can give us some speed, said Smith. “He can make plays and he's going to have a chance to play with some guys that can make some plays with him. I think some of it, too, is putting him in a spot to succeed and I think he's in a spot that he can succeed with Nick Paul and (Evgenii) Dadonov.”
Paul has been Ottawa’s best player in the first half dozen games this season and he is excited to play with his long-time friend.
“Colin has a good head on his shoulders,” said Paul. “He's a great guy and he knows exactly what he has to do. He's got a positive attitude. He's coming into [the] lineup proving something. He knows exactly what he needs to do. And he's ready to take this opportunity.”
However, White’s other linemate, Dadonov, is struggling to find his scoring touch on his new team. Dadonov was general manager Pierre Dorion’s big off-season acquisition, signing the former Florida Panther to a three-year, $15 million contract, but so far the right winger has just one goal and two points in six games.
Smith is hoping that having White centre that line might be able to ignite Dadonov as well.
“I think he would tell you he is squeezing it a bit, said Smith, when asked about Dadonov’s game this season. “He hasn’t buried (a lot of goals), he hasn’t created the opportunities probably that he would want but just like a lot of guys when you're not playing well, when you're not winning, guys tend to squeeze it a little bit. He's a streaky guy and I would say, if he gets one, he's going to get a bunch here.
“When he got one there the other night, I was hoping he’d get hot but you know maybe a little speed from Whitey (White) down the middle open some things up for him and maybe one goes in and we can get some chemistry there.”
Wednesday’s game will also see a return of Cedric Paquette to the fourth line after missing Monday’s game due to injury. Alex Galchenyuk will once again be a healthy scratch. There was change on the blueline as well, with Brayden Coburn returning after being a scratch on Monday. He will move over to the right side to pair with Christian Wolanin. Josh Brown will come out of the lineup for the first time this season.
Smith, who opts not to announce his starting goaltender, said it’s likely both Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg will split the back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday against Vancouver.
Murray was in goal for Monday’s loss, allowing seven goals on 35 shots. It was just the second time in his career Murray has given up seven goals in a game. The former Pittsburgh Penguin has struggled to find his game with Ottawa. Through five games, the 26-year-old Thunder Bay, Ont., native has a 4.47 goals-against average and a .862 save percentage.
“Up until last night, I really liked the way I was playing,” said Murray. “Last night, it was obviously one of those nights where (I) felt like nothing was going our way and it's just a tough night all around, so you just try to learn from it and take from it what you can and move forward.”
“I'm going to put it on me and I'm going put it on some of the mistakes we’ve made and hung him out, said Smith. “But I would say, to be fair, that he would want to play better for sure. In saying that, he's one of those guys that [is] streaky as well and if he gets going, he can win you hockey games. And he is probably putting too much pressure on himself, just like a lot of guys are, and we're in a really tough division this year, in the Canadian [North] Division, and all of these teams were in the playoffs last year, and we're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves.”
The Sens (1-4-1) will look to ease some of that pressure by trying to earn just their second win of the season as they play their third game of a season-high seven-game road trip Wednesday against the Canucks.
Lines at Sens practice on Tuesday:
Tkachuk – Norris – Batherson
Paul – White – Dadonov
Stützle – Tierney – C.Brown
Paquette – Stepan – Watson
Chabot – Zaitsev
Reilly – Gudbranson
Wolanin – Coburn
Zub – J.Brown