|Canucks open road swing against Senators|
OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks are going in opposite directions as they bump into each other Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
In more ways than one.
The only team in the Eastern Conference yet to lose in regulation time, the Senators (3-0-2) are riding a three-game winning streak -- a run that started with an Oct. 10 shootout decision over the Canucks -- when they kick off a stretch of five in a row at home.
The Canucks (1-2-1) have lost three straight and will be playing the opener of a five-game road trip when they attempt to exact some revenge on the Senators.
That task promises to be even more difficult with confirmation that Senators two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson will be making his 2017-18 debut after missing the first five games while recovering from offseason foot surgery.
"I think he's the best player in the world," Senators coach Guy Boucher said Monday. "Basically, he has an impact on everything ... your breakouts, your transition, your own zone, your power play, your offensive play.
"He is who he is. He's such a presence. He's not just a hockey player. It's everything around him, too."
Karlsson is excited to get back in the lineup.
"I had the appropriate amount of time to get ready to play again," he said. "I'm going to be a little bit rusty, probably, but it's better to get back into things as early as possible. Hopefully, it will get better as we go along."
Remarkably, the Senators were not only able to survive but also thrive in Karlsson's absence. After losing their first two games of the season in shootouts, they swept a three-game western Canada road trip for the first time in franchise history. They followed up the 3-2 victory in Vancouver with 6-0 and 6-1 wins against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, respectively.
A large part of the Senators' success can be attributed to special teams play. After going 0-for-16 on the power play in their first three games, they scored a total of five goals with a man-advantage in Calgary and Edmonton. Ottawa is also 15-for-15 this season on the penalty kill.
While the Senators are now at full strength, health-wise, Canucks defenseman Alex Edler and winger Loui Eriksson sustained knee injuries during the first four home games.
Their power play is hurting, too, having scored just two goals on 23 chances.
In a 5-2 loss to the Flames on Saturday, the Canucks were outscored 1-0 during their five first-period power plays, which included a five-on-three advantage for 71 seconds.
"We were too slow and they were able to block shots," Vancouver winger Daniel Sedin told the Vancouver Sun. "We've got to be better, and a lot of things need to happen. That short-handed goal can't happen. You're not going to win a lot of games if that happens."
The Canucks have done a decent job short-handed, with a penalty-killing unit that has operated at an 87.5 percent efficiency, tied for sixth best in the league.