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Canadian NHL Preview: the Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators are an up-and-down team. Their fans will tell you that and the facts will tell you that. They go from red hot to ice cold back within a week. They'll beat conference leaders one night, and follow it up with a loss to the league's worst team the next. With some teams you know where to point the blame for situations like this. With the Sens, that's harder than it seems.

Normally with this team you point to the man between the pipes. Be it, Ray Emery, Martin Gerber, Pascal Leclaire, Brain Elliott or Mike Brodeur - no other team's blue paint has seen as many different faces over the past few seasons than Ottawa's. But even with the revolving door in goal, they seem to get decent performances from whoever is standing in the paint. It may not be All Star calibre play, but enough to keep them in games for the most part. Leclaire looks to be getting the starting nod in hopes of getting back in to form after another injury-filled campaign last year.

But just when the goaltending gets hot, the offence faulters. Or when the offence is hot, there are too many defensive breakdowns to allow a victory. The story shouldn't be much different this year either.

The Sens lost one of their pivotal defenders in Anton Volchenkov to free agency, but filled his shoes with Sergei Gonchar. The number of goals (goals, not shots on goal) Volchenkov blocked each year should be matched by Gonchar's tallies in the offensive zone. Gonchar is nowhere near Volchenkov in the defensive end, but his seeing eye shot from the point is something Ottawa hasn't seen since Zdeno Chara left town.



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