With a hat trick of goaltenders sidelined due to injury, the Ottawa Senators have a choice between Filip Gustavsson and newcomer Anton Forsberg when they play host to the Calgary Flames on Monday.
Granted, the Flames aren’t world beaters, but that’s not an ideal position for a struggling Senators squad that is last in the North Division. Then again, as the Senators proceed with their rebuild, finding out what they have in the system isn’t a bad thing.
Based on Sunday’s practice, Gustavsson, who has one period’s worth of NHL action on his resume, will serve as backup to Forsberg, who was claimed off waivers last week in the latest chapter of what’s been a wacky season. Forsberg was signed by the Edmonton Oilers last fall, claimed off waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes — for whom he played three games — before being claimed via waivers by the Winnipeg Jets and then claimed by the Senators on St. Patrick’s Day.
With Matt Murray, Marcus Hogberg and Joey Daccord all sidelined due to injury, the 28-year-old Forsberg, with 48 career NHL games under his belt, looks to be tabbed for the first of two consecutive home clashes with the Flames.
“It felt good to get to play (Saturday) for Belleville,” said Forsberg, who surrendered one goal in an opportunity to tune up with an American Hockey League clash. “It was a lot of hours of practice, so good to get into a game.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve played, and once I’m in there I just work on my structure. If I play … I would be focusing on myself, focus on my game. Nothing else.”
The Senators, who haven’t played since Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks, have one win in their past six games (1-3-2). They’re facing an inconsistent Flames squad, which has dropped two of three games — the latest a 2-0 road loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday — since winning three straight games after new coach Darryl Sutter took over.
The Flames still have playoff hopes but can’t afford to waste a pair of games against the cellar-dwelling Senators. Entering Sunday’s games, they were four points outside of a spot.
That said, they’ve been better defensively under Sutter, outside of a blowout loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
“We’ve been really good in our zone,” goalie David Rittich said. “Obviously, we did some mistakes (in Toronto), but it’s part of the hockey game, and the team who’s going to make less mistakes is going to win.”
The Flames won’t start winning regularly, however, until they begin creating enough offense, as was evident in Toronto. Even though they held Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews to just one goal combined in their two-game series, the Flames fell because they couldn’t light the lamp against backup goalie Jack Campbell.
“We struggled to get through the neutral zone,” defenseman Chris Tanev said. “We were chipping a lot of pucks (that) went to their goalie, and they had a lot of easy exits and came at us with speed, forcing us to play three-quarter ice a little bit. We got better as the game went along, but against a good team like that, you have to play a full 60 minutes.”
Despite Calgary’s up-and-down performances, Senators coach D.J. Smith has noticed an improved Flames team heading his way.
“They are playing hard. There is no glide in their game,” Smith said. “They play in packs of five. Our guys have to learn how to play with no room out there. That’s what they will see from Calgary.”
–Field Level Media