Gameday Conference Semifinals #3: @ Ottawa Senators

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PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ Ottawa Senators

Scotia Bank Place, 7:30 PM, NBC Sports, CBC, RDS, 105.9 the X

For the first time since 2009 the Penguins are up 2-0 in a series. As fans, that opens up a little bit of satisfaction, we can breathe a little sigh of relief. But that’s not the case for the guys on the ice. Being up 2-0 only means that the Penguins will have to play twice as hard if they want to earn their third win of the series. And that’s on them. The Pens have been doing well late in the first two games of this series to suffocate the Sens, and Rob Rossi has a pretty decent read on it, if they want to keep winning they’ll have to keep it up.

The Senators should get a huge boost with the return of Jason Spezza to their lineup. He is coming off of back surgery to repair a herniated disc. No question, people around Pittsburgh have often been vicious to Spezza over the years. But that’s because he’s good. He is a game-changer and one thing that’s seemed obvious throughout the first two games of the series is that with any kind of elite offensive presence the Sens might look like a totally different team in the offensive zone. The Pens have done a good job of keeping the front of the net open to prevent garbage/grinder goals. Now they’ll also have to guard against skilled goals, something they struggled with against John Tavares and the Islanders. Of course, who knows how healthy and effective Spezza will be? We could be making mountains of mole hills, or he’ll record 3 points and chase Vokoun from the net. For what it’s worth, according to Dejan, Spezza did not participate in a full team practice before declaring himself good to go. At best he has only participated in “Black Aces” practices with the guys who have been healthy scratches.

After going -3 on all three even strength goals the Senators have scored in this series we would be amazed to see Deryk Engelland remain in the lineup. The Pens had an optional skate yesterday so there is no indication as to what could happen. We’ve said before that Mark Eaton seems custom made for this series, but a swap for Simon Despres would be okay too. Either way we would expect whoever comes into the lineup will skate with Kris Letang and Matt Nikskanen will take up position with Douglas Murray. At this point the Sens haven’t been as chippy as was expected and I should think that Murray is a big part of that. The reasoning behind Engo made sense at the time but he’s failed to make the most of his opportunity, time to move on. No other changes should be expected.

The race to one starts tonight. Go Pens.

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