Senators at Jets
Erik Karlsson returns from his Norris Trophy-winning season with a big contract and great expectations as the Ottawa Senators open their season at the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. The young Swede will look to take the reins from veteran Daniel Alfredsson, who has captained the Senators for over 10 seasons but is considering retirement after guiding the team to another playoff berth at the age of 39.
Evander Kane also reached new heights in his young career last season, scoring 30 goals and 57 points. The fourth overall pick in 2009, Kane was rewarded by Winnipeg for his efforts with a six-year, $31.5 million deal. With an elite veteran playmaker like Olli Jokinen joining the Jets this season, 30 goals may just be the start for Kane.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, CBC
ABOUT THE SENATORS (2011-12: 41-31-10, 2nd Northeast Division): Karlsson, Jason Spezza (84 points) and Milan Michalek (35 goals) led the Senators to a postseason berth despite allowing 240 goals. Rookie netminder Robin Lehner will battle Craig Anderson for the starting role and both will see plenty of shots, as Ottawa’s defense gained Marc Methot but lost Filip Kuba to free agency and Jared Cowen to injury. Nick Foligno, Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner are all gone as well, leaving the Senators with holes to fill in their forechecking and toughness.
ABOUT THE JETS (2011-12: 37-35-10, 4th Southeast Division): Winnipeg's best asset last season was its balanced scoring, with nine players earning at least 30 points. The additions of Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky will add to that depth. Ondrej Pavelec was rewarded for an inconsistent season with a five-year contract extension but will need to improve on his .906 save percentage if Winnipeg hopes to improve in the standings. Rookie Mark Scheifele appears ready for a full-time spot with the Jets after scoring 49 points in 30 games with the Barrie Colts of the OHL this season.
1. Ottawa won three of four games against the Jets last season, twice defeating Winnipeg by a 6-4 margin.
2. Cowen will miss the entire season for the Senators with a hip injury. Zach Bogosian is out indefinitely for the Jets following wrist surgery.
3. Dustin Byfuglien, who led Winnipeg defensemen with 53 points last season, dodged questions about his conditioning. He said his weight “stayed right around the same” during the lockout.
PREDICTION: Senators 5, Jets 2