Garrioch: Senators coach DJ Smith and GM Pierre Dorion may have roster decisions to make

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The Senators head to Chicago with a 3-4-0 record in the first seven games on the National Hockey League schedule and it’s not hard to see that they’ve taken steps in the right direction this season. .

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DJ Smith will consider changes Monday night.

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That’s not to say by any stretch of the imagination that it will, however.

After the Ottawa Senators’ resounding 4-1 victory over the Stars in Dallas on Friday, GM Pierre Dorion, Smith and the rest of the staff will have decisions to make before they face the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night at the United Center in the second part of a three game road trip.

The bigger one may be in the net because goaltender Matt Murray has resumed skating and is eligible to be dropped from the reserve injured list after receiving a blow to the head from Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers in Ottawa. October 23. If Murray is ready, like winger Austin Watson, the Senators will have 24 players on the roster, so someone will have to be ruled out.

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It’s possible the Senators can always wait longer on Watson because Smith is never too keen on changing a winning roster. If so, the Senators wouldn’t have to assign anyone to their American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville before the trip ended Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis.

Fortunately, with two days between games, Dorion and Smith have some time to think about which route they want to take. The Senators head to Chicago with a 3-4-0 record in the first seven games on the National Hockey League schedule and it’s not hard to see that they’ve taken steps in the right direction this season. .

That’s why Smith didn’t want to make the Monday roster after the club’s fast skating on Saturday.

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“You don’t want to fix it if it’s not broke,” Smith told reporters in Chicago. “At the same time we have guys who need to come in and there are minor bumps and bruises that people don’t know about. We will know a little more (Sunday) about what the lineup will look like. “

Given that Watson returned from an ankle injury four weeks ago during training camp, it might not make sense for him to dress in back-to-back matches. Smith may want to use it on Tuesday in Minnesota rather than putting it on Monday night in Chicago.

Judging by the line combinations and defensive pairs for Saturday’s practice, it certainly doesn’t look like there will be any changes up front. There’s a good chance the Senators will send winger Scott Sabourin, who has only played two games, to Belleville when they return to Ottawa.

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As for Murray, that decision will be made in consultation with goaltending coach Zac Bierk, so it’s hard to say which direction Smith will go.

Filip Gustavsson follows the puck into the corner of the ice after making one of his 38 saves for the Senators against the Stars on Friday night.
Filip Gustavsson follows the puck into the corner of the ice after making one of his 38 saves for the Senators against the Stars on Friday night. Photo by Tom Pennington /Getty Images

Yes, Gustavsson stopped 38 of 39 shots in Dallas, but that doesn’t mean the club won’t return to Murray. He looked good when he hurt his neck and there’s no reason not to put him back in there if he’s ready to play.

Called in from Belleville after Murray’s injury, Gustavsson rebounded after allowing three goals on 15 reliefs in a 7-5 loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday. He’s won two of his three Ottawa net appearances this season and Smith certainly left many under the impression that he would make another start on this trip.

“At the end of the day, we’re in the business to win games, and if the goalie wants to win games and play like that, he’s going to keep playing,” Smith said.

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Of course, Gustavsson’s effort on Friday could mean Anton Forsberg won’t have the chance to play on that trip. Perhaps it would have made sense for Forsberg to face his former team on Monday, but there is now no guarantee that he will dress.

Being retired after allowing four goals on 16 shots last Monday against the Caps was bad timing for Forsberg. The Senators have three goaltenders who can play at the NHL level and still believe strongly in Murray, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he shared those two games with Gustavsson.

Gustavsson, 22, is 2-1-0 with a .932 save percentage. Dallas still has a lot of offensive talent with Joe Pavel, Jamie Benn, Miro Heiskanen and Tyler Seguin, but Gustavsson has done a good job. He also made 32 saves in a 3-2 home win over the Stars on October 17.

“He was amazing and we’ve seen him before too,” said center Josh Norris, who scored two goals in Dallas. “He just plays with confidence and he’s having fun in the net. It was good to see from the bench and he kept us in the game at times.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sungarrioch

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