Steve Staios will have to spend the early part of club’s break in the schedule performing some cap gymnastics.
Help should be on the way for the Ottawa Senators once the nine-day break in the schedule comes to an end on Feb. 10 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which means the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager likely will have to make room under the salary cap.
Goaltender Anton Forsberg is on the road to recovery after being placed on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) after suffering a right groin injury Jan. 7 against the Buffalo Sabres and, if all goes as planned, he could be ready when the Senators suit up against the Leafs at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Forsberg missed his 10th straight as the Senators closed out the schedule before the all-star break Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena and is now eligible to come off LTIR.
But to make room for Forsberg and his $2.75-million US salary, Staios has to clear off money because, according to Capfriendly.com, the Senators had $1.05 million US in cap space Wednesday.
Forward Rourke Chartier, who has played a valuable role killing penalties for this team, cleared waivers Wednesday at 2 p.m. so his $775,000 salary will come off the books since he was sent to the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville.
The belief is the Senators also will send Mads Sogaard back to Belleville so he can suit up there during the break and continue to try to develop his game to play at this level. He was recalled on an emergency basis and the club will also get cap relief from his $925,000 salary.
That means if the Senators want to create cap space, they’ll likely have to either send down rugged winger Zack MacEwen or defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker. There’s a lot less risk involved with MacEwen, who was a healthy scratch Wednesday night and has two years left at $775,000.
Getting Forsberg back will give Sogaard a chance to try to get his game together in Belleville.
In the four games Sogaard played since being recalled from Belleville, he has had a tough time finding consistency. He has a 1-1-0 record with an .825 save-percentage and a 5.09 goals against average.
The 23-year-old Sogaard, the club’s No. 37 overall pick in the 2019 National Hockey League draft, was pulled after allowing three goals on 11 shots Monday against the Nashville Predators.
No. 1 goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who was in the net for the club’s visit to Detroit, came on in relief and made 17 stops as the Senators battled back to score a 4-3 overtime victory over the Predators.
Like everybody else on the Senators, Forsberg has struggled to find his form this season. He has a 7-8-0 record with a 3.35 goals-against average and an .889 save percentage.
This club’s goaltending has left a lot to be desired and it has already cost assistant Zac Bierk his job. He was replaced by Belleville goalie coach Justin Peters earlier this month.
CALMING THE WATERS
Wings coach Derek Lalonde was trying to play down the pre-game chatter about the rivalry between the Wings and Senators before the puck was dropped in Detroit.
The Senators scored a 5-1 win over the Wings on Dec. 9 in the Motor City, but winger Mathieu Joseph knocked out Wings captain Dylan Larkin with a hard hit in the first and was booed the rest of the game by the Detroit crowd.
Joseph wasn’t sure if he’d be a marked man, but it’s safe to say he wasn’t popular with the Wings faithful because Larkin missed four games as a result of the hit. He wasn’t trying to worry about that before Wednesday’s game.
“I’m just going to come out and play my game. Whatever happens, happens,” Joseph told TSN 1200’s Gord Wilson following Wednesday’s skate. “They want to get the two points too, so both teams are just going to come in here and compete. We’re going to battle to get the win.”
Lalonde planned to address his group before the game, but wasn’t going to focus on payback.
“The media will probably make more of it than it really is,” Lalonde said. “It’s like this going into any game. We want to be emotionally involved, but we want to manage our emotions. It’s the way we’ve been all year.”
As previously noted in this space, the Wings don’t have a bunch of heavyweights and a toe-to-toe battle isn’t really what they want to engage in, especially against Senators captain Brady Tkachuk.
“It’s the way we’ve been all year. We’re not built like some teams physically, but I think we’ve done a good job of standing up for ourselves,” Lalonde said. “And we’ve given push back when need be. For us, it’s about playing the right way, keeping our game in order and trying to get more points.
“It’s hard to get a run like this, it’s very rare to get a run like this, and you want to keep it going as long as you can.”
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THE LAST WORDS
Detroit winger Alex DeBrincat suited up for Game No. 500 of his career against his former teammates. Dealt to the Wings by the Senators in July, DeBrincat went into the game with 18 goals and 43 points in 49 games this season. He’ll be Detroit’s representative at NHL all-star weekend … Sens coach Jacques Martin made one change by placing centre Mark Kastelic in the lineup against the Wings.