(The return of the Rat)
At the half way point the Sens find themselves in a better place than last year. Although the recent rash of injuries (on top of the existing long-term injuries to MacArthur and Michalek) have dropped Ottawa out of a playoff spot, they remain just a single point back of the New Jersey Devils, who hold the second wild card spot. Additionally the Sens have a game in hand. Of course other teams are also in the hunt, such as last year's Division leading Lightning (tied with the Sens, ahead on ROWs), Penguins (1 point back of the Sens but with a game in hand). Other teams aren't that far behind, either, like the Flyers, 3 points back of the Sens but with 2 games in hand. The only two teams truly out of it are the Sabres and Blue Jackets, as even the Leafs, with their recent improved play, are just 5 points back with 2 games in hand.
Looking at the schedule, the Sens have 21 of their remaining 41 games against teams below them in the standings. They have that same number of home games, so the schedule looks pretty balanced between the first and second halves. If the Sens can stay healthier in the second half they should be able to gain some consistency which would allow them to have a better second half than first. A playoff spot is certainly within their reach, especially now that the team is finally getting healthy, again. Milan Michalek returned after missing 15 games and scored a goal; MacArthur skated for the first time in forever but this was just a light skate with no equipment. There is still no schedule for his return, but at least there is finally some tangible progress being made. Ceci was also back in the lineup as Cowen remained in the pressbox. I wonder, though, if will stay up there after Claesson's less-than-stellar game. My ideal back-end would be Karlsson-Wiercioch, Ceci-Methot, Claesson/Boro-Wideman but, of course, that's not going to happen.
Once again, tonight the Sens face a team that played (and traveled) the night before, as the Bruins came to Ottawa after a regulation win over the Devils. The Sens and Bruins split their first two games of the season in a home-and-home series after the Christmas break. The Bruins' win was a more convincing 7-3, thanks to 4 power play goals (Bruins went 4 for 7) and a hat trick by Jimmy Hayes (the last goal coming in the last second of the game). Despite the lopsided score, the game really could have swung either way. The first Bruins goal came on a very lucky bounce on a nothing shoot-in and 4 of their goals came on the powerplay. Five-on-five the teams were even at 3s, including the flukey bounce goal. And then there is the non-call on Marchand's submarine hit that should have been at least a minor and likely more (who knows if another PP would have helped, though, as the Sens were 0 for 4).
If the Sens win, they'll take over the last wildcard spot, but it may not last for long, as Tampa is playing in Vancouver in the late game (Lightning are tied with the Sens in points but are ahead on ROWs).
GO SENS GO!!!