NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, October 4th (All times eastern)
Ottawa Senators (0-0-0) at Toronto Maple Leafs (0-0-0), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - A "Battle of Ontario" matchup begins the season for the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs for the second straight year tonight when the rivals clash at Air Canada Centre. The tilt begins a home-and-home set, as the clubs will meet again on Thursday in Ottawa.
For the Senators this begins another chance to atone for their playoff failures, as they lost in the second round last spring. The Leafs, meanwhile, missed the postseason for the first time since 1998.
The Senators entered this past offseason with its top two defensemen -- Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara -- becoming free agents, and they were able to re-sign one of them in Redden. Chara took his mammoth frame to division foe Boston.
Other losses included Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski, who were both traded to Chicago, and goaltender Dominik Hasek, who went back to Detroit as a free agent.
The Sens still have a top-flight offensive attack led by Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, and Redden anchors a capable defense corps that welcomes newcomer Tom Preissing. Goaltender Martin Gerber, meanwhile, was brought in to replace Hasek as the top netminder.
Gerber appeared in 60 regular season games for Carolina last season, going 38-14-6 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. While he was eventually supplanted by rookie Cam Ward in the postseason, it can't be overlooked that he was the primary netminder as the team finished with the top record in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto, meanwhile, has a new coach heading into the campaign, as Pat Quinn was relieved of his duties in favor of AHL bench boss Paul Maurice. Maurice takes over a team that lost the likes of Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, Tie Domi, Aki Berg and Ed Belfour.
However, GM John Ferguson began re-tooling his club from the back end out. He traded for former Calder winner Andrew Raycroft and signed free agent defensemen Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina, as well as former Selke winner Michael Peca.
Bringing in Raycroft was a bit of a gamble for the club, as he suffered through a brutal season in Boston last year. He finished 8-19-2 with a 3.71 goals-against average in 30 appearances.
Of course, the Leafs begin and end with captain Mats Sundin, who led the club with 78 points (31g, 47a) last season. Defenseman Bryan McCabe is also back, after notching 19 goals and 49 assists in 73 games to rank third among NHL blueliners in scoring.
Ottawa won the first seven meetings against Toronto last season, before the Leafs took the final clash in April. The Senators are 10-5-1 in the last 16 series games overall.
The Leafs are 33-40-15 all-time in season openers, while the Sens are 6-2-5.
10/04 10:25:50 ET