Read up on the latest tidbits and trends as Hockey Night in Canada's play-by-play voice Jim Hughson takes you behind the scenes and into the game.This Week's Work:
Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs | Oct. 9, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT (CBC, CBCSports.ca)The Script
Most things that happen in Ottawa polarize the nation, so why would the hockey team be any different?
Believers elect the Senators as Canada's top Eastern team, while others see them as one that will scuffle in the pack, looking for the last couple of playoff spots.
The doubt comes from the blue-line back. While the Senators are deep enough up front to ice a pair of scoring lines and a solid checking group, the defence could be pretty ordinary beyond the top three of Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips and Erik Karlsson.
And then there's the goaltending.
It's a sure sign of concern when a team won't -- or can't -- name the starting goaltender for opening night, and the Senators didn't until the day of their initial game against Buffalo.
When he finally named Pascal Leclaire the starter, coach Cory Clouston said he went with him "because he's supposed to be our go-to guy."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Turns out the choice was a good one. After a mediocre pre-season, Leclaire was superb despite a 2-1 loss on Friday, and was responsible for keeping the game close when Ottawa was outshot 16-3 in the second period.
Without Jason Spezza (groin), Ottawa's top players just didn't create enough chances until late in the game, and the power play went 0-for-6.
In the meantime, the Leafs got their first win on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, 19 days ahead of last year. They look to be a faster, more energetic team this season, and look like they can push the pace of the game better.
Toronto got goals from each of it's top two lines, killed every penalty and threatened to score on the power play. But most importantly, the Leafs got NHL goaltending from Jean-Sebastien Giguere.In the Spotlight
Alexei Kovalev says he'd like to play till he's 50, which is surprising since at times last season he looked like he loved everything about hockey but the games.
Kovalev looked disinterested last season, one that only a veteran with a résumé like his can get away with.
The good news is that his career is dotted with such seasons and he more often than not follows a bad year with a big upswing. Kovalev should be inspired by Ottawa's acquisition of Gonchar.
It's not about adding another Russian countryman, either. Gonchar is a high-end player who can do things many Sens can't.
Kovalev should get the puck in scoring positions often, like he did with Andrei Markov in Montreal, although against Buffalo he wasn't on the first unit power play until late in the game. When he finally got there the chances started to come.On the Hot Stove
Whenever he returns, and it could be tonight, Jason Spezza might be entering a pivotal year in his up-and-down relationship with the Senators and their fans.
No matter how serious the summer trade talk was, Spezza is still a Senator and Ottawa is clearly a better regular season team with him in the lineup. The Sens will need him to get to the playoffs and then we can see if he can get over the big game hurdle. Outtakes
How long will it be before Colton Orr and Matt Carkner square off in the Battle of Ontario's main event?
The pair fought four times last season, with most judges giving Orr a decision in three of them.
It doesn't seem to matter if there's nothing to fight about, it's simply become a right of passage and years from now when we're dissecting the 43rd Orr-Carkner bout no one will have a clue what started the feud -- if anything really did.
Mike Brown against Chris Neil on the undercard might be a pretty safe bet for this one as well.
Toronto defenceman Luke Schenn had a good training camp and a solid first night in the win over Montreal.
The 20-year-old admitted he heard so much about the "sophomore jinx" last year that he might have convinced himself it was real and never got comfortable. He said he feels completely different on the ice this fall and it shows in his game.
Schenn wants the puck, welcomes battles, and looks like a top-four defender instead of the healthy scratch he became at times last season. From the stat pack
It's expected Gonchar will fix what ails the Ottawa power play. The Senators ranked 21st in the category last season, scoring 16.9 per cent of the time.
Here's how the Pittsburgh Penguins power play did with Gonchar as its quarterback the last five seasons. Keep in mind he missed 70 games the last two seasons with injuries.
Looks like the power play reflected his absence.
2009-10 -- 17.2 per cent -- ranked 19th in NHL
2008-09 -- 17.2 per cent -- ranked 20th in NHL
2007-08 -- 20.4 per cent -- ranked 4th in NHL
2006-07 -- 20.3 per cent -- ranked 5th in NHL
2005-06 -- 19.0 per cent -- ranked 6th in NHL
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