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The regular season hasn’t even started, and the Ottawa Senators are already without their 2nd and 3rd line centers, Shane Pinto and Josh Norris. With a post-season appearance being the team’s expectation, the Sens will need some huge performances from their group. With the return of Josh Norris and/or Shane Pinto hopefully approaching, the team just needs to stay afloat until their reinforcements arrive. In this article, I will review who the Sens will rely on with their depleted centre depth.
Ridly Greig will be the most elevated player in the Senators lineup to start the season. Coming into camp, the goal for Ridly Greig was just to cement himself as a full-time NHL player. Well, not only will he play in the NHL, but he will be relied upon as a top 6 centreman to start the year. On the bright side, this isn’t Greig’s first time playing in the top 6 as he spent part of last season slotted as the second-line centre.
Although a small sample size, Ridly Greig was a serviceable top 6 forward last season. He put up a respectable 9 points in 20 games and was an advanced stats darling.
If the Senators want to remain competitive in the playoff race, Ridly Greig must step up in a big way. Based on practice lines, Greig will play with Drake Batherson and one of Vladimir Tarasenko or Mathieu Joseph. A line of Tarasenko, Greig, and Batherson sounds effective on paper, and is how I want to see the second line set up to start the year.
I don’t think any Sens fans can say that they expected Rourke Chartier to start the season in Ottawa, let alone in a top 9 role. But after a strong camp and an unexpected opportunity in the lineup, here we are. Chartier is in a much different position than Ridly Greig. The 27-year-old has been a career AHLer to this point, and has never had an extended look at the NHL. The team shouldn’t expect him to produce much offence. For him to be successful, he needs to play a sound defensive game without taking a high number of penalties.
Rourke Chartier is projected to play with Dominik Kubalik and one of Tarasenko or Joseph. His wingers will be looked at to create offence on their line, and Chartier will just need to keep up as best he can. One thing I will say is Rourke Chartier sounds like a very determined player. He will be giving 110% on the ice, and hopefully, that is enough to be successful in his limited time as the 3rd line centre.
Korpisalo And Forsberg
The top 6 (hopefully including Greig), and defence should be able to produce some high-level offence. But without two core centers, the Senators are going to have to win some of their lower-scoring games. Enter, Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg. The highly anticipated goaltending tandem for the Senators will need their A-game early this season. Goaltenders can steal games for a team, and without Josh Norris and Shane Pinto, the Senators may require them to steal some early games.
If this pre-season indicates the level of play we will see from Korpisalo and Forsberg, I am very confident. Both guys recorded shutouts this pre-season and looked steady as a whole. The defence and goaltending will have to stand tall for the Senators to have a successful opening to their season.
How Long Can The Sens Survive Without Josh Norris And Shane Pinto
I am not confident in the Senators playoff chances if the team needs to run this lineup for more than 8-10 games. Their schedule through the first 10 games sees them play against 5 teams who made the post-season last year and 5 who did not. Of those who did not, Philadelphia is the only team in a rebuilding mode this season. The others include Pittsburgh, Washington, Detroit, and Buffalo. All of these teams will be competing for a playoff spot with Ottawa, making the points much more valuable.
If the Senators come out of this stretch with 4 wins or less, they will find themselves behind the eight-ball for the remainder of the season. They must strive for at least a .500 record (without Josh Norris and Shane Pinto) to set themselves up for success.
But, I am hopeful that they won’t have to wait this long to get back one or both of their centers. With the news that Josh Norris is not being placed on LTIR, it only makes sense that he should be ready in less than 10 games. And, according to insiders, the Shane Pinto camp and Ottawa Senators are getting closer in their negotiations. A home opener with Josh Norris and Shane Pinto would be an excellent way to ignite the fans at home. Let’s hope the team makes it happen.
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