• By: Dave Gross

Senators roster shuffle is a case of who’s-who

Photo credit: NHLI via Getty Images

Agatha Christie has nothing on the Ottawa Senators.

Her classic thriller, And Then There Were None, details the story of a number of guests travelling to a deserted island following a mysterious invitation. One by one the guests are picked off.

Ottawa’s lineup plays like the celebrated novel.

Wasn’t bad enough the Senators lost valuable veteran presence with the dealings of Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Kyle Turris in the past year-plus, and a pre-season injury to J-G Pageau, this past week star forward Matt Duchene and sometimes-star-forward Bobby Ryan (…Okay, maybe in the playoffs) were shipped to sick bay adding another alteration.

The lineup has had more turnovers than Pillsbury.

It was a real head-scratcher as to not only who’d we see, but what we’d see this weekend from this flip-flop-fly lineup.

Surprisingly Saturday produced one of the more entertaining games of the season.

There was real hate between the Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s another surprise as you could imagine many of the Pens looking around at the opposition saying: ‘who are these guys anyway?’

It was nasty.

It was terrific.

It was also a surprise to see (finally) one of the lone Ottawa veterans reverting back to a form we see so little of. Yep, Zack Smith had easily his best game of the season. Maybe of the past 2-3 seasons.

Smith looked engaged. Too often he isn’t. For a guy who is supposed to bring grit, he’s been on vacation the past few years. We’ll see if the one-game trend continues.

Ottawa was full value for the win.

Onto Sunday and the Boston Bruins arrive on the heels of a similar knuckle-buster the night before, against Toronto.

Ottawa started backup Mike McKenna in goal, and continuing with the surprises here, McKenna was the Senators best player in stopping 42 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss.

Given the amount of turnover in the past week, months and couple of years, and concerted adherence to a ‘youth’ movement, gaining three of a possible four points against quality competition wasn’t anything this corner saw as believable.

But there you have it.

News, notes and notions: Ottawa heads into a very tough road stretch this week with trips to Nashville, Detroit – who’s improved after a truly awful start – then Montreal . . . Speaking of the Habs, you gotta love their swagger. Montreal, as usual, is smallish up front, but presents tremendous speed and character. They are also tough to play against as Claude Julien can throw out the likes of Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi and Andrew Shaw. They can score and drive you crazy at the same time . . . Cautious optimism surrounds Duchene’s injury (groin). The expectation is he’s in the 2-3 week ballpark before a return . . . Can’t really understand this one: Rumours of a potential Craig Anderson deal won’t go away. I mean, come on, how truly bad would this Ottawa team’s record be without the veteran? . . . From Postmedia scribe Steve Simmons: “(San Jose head coach) Peter DeBoer is on the clock with the Sharks and the vibe around the team seems so bad right now that Erik Karlsson is hinting he won’t sign to stay there next season.” . . . The Buffalo Sabres are on course for the NHL’s most dysfunctional bunch award. Hot on the heels of a 10-game win streak, Buffalo’s dropped five in a row. "That's not us," insisted captain Jack Eichel to the Buffalo News. "The streak we were on, that's over. Means nothing now. Now I think we're losing sight of what's made us successful. We haven't worked really. That's a prime example." In their defence, the Sabres are missing half their defensive corps to injury as well as top stopper Carter Hutton . . . A little basketball-to-hockey comparison. Doesn’t Toronto Raptor Kawhi Leonard remind you a little bit of how former NHL sniper Brett Hull became so wildly affective? They both have/had the ability to find space and holes where the opposition is/was not present. Kawhi just has that sixth sense about him Hull would find that gap in the slot; Kawhi finds the open lanes in the defence . . . It’s only December but you truly get the sense that given their druthers, the Toronto Maple Leafs would greatly appreciate not meeting the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs. Some teams seem to have other team’s number . . . The Leafs loss in Boston was the start of a five-game road swing.

Senators week ahead:

Tuesday, Dec. 11: Ottawa at Nashville (8 pm)

Friday, Dec. 14: Ottawa at Detroit (7:30 pm)

Saturday, Dec. 15: Ottawa at Montreal (7 pm)