The Ottawa Senators should have reinforcements on hand when they get back to the Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.
It’s to be determined if they will indeed be of help this weekend, though.
As the Senators prepare to wrap up their seven-day break by returning to the ice Thursday at 4 p.m., the club will get a better idea then whether goaltender Anton Forsberg is ready to return from the right groin injury and if defenceman Jake Sanderson can resume skating.
While the Senators were optimistic going into the break that Forsberg was closing in on a return from the ailment that has forced him to miss 10 games, he hasn’t been activated off long-term injury reserve yet and hasn’t skated with the rest of his teammates either.
The hope is Forsberg, who has continued his rehab work while the team has been off will be ready to at least backup Joonas Korpisalo against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at the Canadian Tire Centre — but that won’t be firmed up until the Senators get back to work.
As for Sanderson, it’s not believed the lower-body injury he suffered in the first period of the club’s 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings last Wednesday was anything that’s going to keep him out for a lengthy amount of time, but there are no guarantees he’s going to face Toronto.
He left after getting bumped in the corner by Detroit captain Dylan Larkin and there was no update following the game. Sanderson attempted to return that night against the Wings, but the decision was made after consultation with the medical staff to not risk it.
We’re led to believe he returned to his home in Montana for the break, but has been continuing his rehab recovery there. The Senators medical staff has kept in touch with Sanderson throughout the break, but won’t get a first-hand look at him until Thursday.
Sanderson has been the club’s best and most consistent blueliner all season. The Senators will have veteran Travis Hamonic back from his lower-body injury after the break, so they shouldn’t have to recall anybody if Sanderson isn’t ready to go.
Hamonic has missed five games with the ailment he suffered Jan. 21 against the Philadelphia Flyers, but resumed skating with a non-contact jersey before the break got under way.
If Forsberg is ready to return then Steve Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, will have to make a couple of roster move to create cap space for his $2.75-million US hit.
The Senators currently have $1.2 million in cap space after sending centre Rourke Chartier to the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville before the break.
Staios will be able to free up another $775,000 by sending Kevin Mandolese back to the minors. He was recalled last Wednesday night because the club wanted Mads Sogaard to suit up for Belleville on the weekend and needed to have two goalies on the roster.
Even if Mandolese is sent back, the club will still need more space to be able to activate Forsberg.
That means if the Senators want to create more 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 against Detroit and has two years left at $775,000. Also, if Sanderson isn’t healthy then Bernard-Docker won’t even be an option.
Whether Forsberg is ready or not, the expectation is Korpisalo will start against the Leafs.
The 29-year-old Korpisalo, who was signed to a five-year, $20-million deal on July 1, finally started to show some consistency heading into the break. He posted a 5-1-2 record in his last eight appearances with an .898 save-percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average.
In 29 appearances this season, Korpisalo has a 12-16-2 record with a 3.38 GAA and an .889 save-percentage. If he can show consistency down the stretch, that would certainly be a step in the right direction.
There’s no reason to believe that interim coach Jacques Martin will take Korpisalo out of the net with the Senators biggest rival in town and Forsberg will need time to get up to speed.
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Like everybody else on the Senators, Forsberg, who left the Jan. 11 road game against the Buffalo Sabres, 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.
The Senators posted a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games heading into the break, but they are about get busy and will need both goaltenders. The club has 35 games remaining on the schedule and the club will begin a three-game home stand against the Leafs.
Ideally, they’ll have all hands on deck when they get back from their lengthy break, but we’ll have to wait until they hit the ice to find out if that’s indeed going to be the case.