Thin defensively, the Ottawa Senators won’t have the burden of trying to stop Ilya Kovalchuk(notes). The Atlanta Thrashers’ blue-line corps, meanwhile, may still have to contend with Jason Spezza(notes).
The Senators, missing top defenseman Anton Volchenkov(notes), hope to have Spezza back Saturday afternoon in a matchup with a Thrashers team that is without Kovalchuk as it tries to end a four-game losing streak.
Ottawa (6-3-2) lost 5-2 in Tampa on Thursday night in its first game without Volchenkov and Spezza. Volchenkov will be out for at least two weeks after hurting his right elbow in a 4-3 win at Florida on Wednesday night, and Spezza is day to day after suffering an upper-body injury in that contest.
Volchenkov was replaced by defenseman Brian Lee(notes), who was recalled from Binghamton of the AHL. Lee, a former first-round pick, had an assist but was part of a defense that couldn’t stop the Lightning.
At least the Senators won’t have to face Kovalchuk. Atlanta’s star winger is expected to miss three to five weeks because of a broken foot.
Kovalchuk has 21 goals and 11 assists in 28 games against Ottawa, but Atlanta is 11-16-0 with one tie in those contests.
Spezza, Ottawa’s catalyst offensively, has helped the Senators overcome Kovalchuk’s strong play, posting six goals and 17 assists in 19 games versus the Thrashers.
Spezza has eight assists in 10 games this season but has yet to score after finding the back of the net at least 32 times in each of his last three seasons.
Without Spezza on Thursday, the Senators were held under three goals for the first time since a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh on Oct. 12. That was also the last time Ottawa had lost in regulation.
Ottawa now opens a four-game stretch at home, where it is 3-1-2.
Atlanta (4-4-1) is coming off an 0-3-0 homestand and has lost four in a row overall - all by one goal - since a 4-2 win at Buffalo on Oct. 17. The Thrashers have trailed by three goals in each of their last three games and have dropped below .500 for the first time after a 4-1-0 start.
Peverley replaced Kovalchuk on the top line in Thursday’s 4-3 loss to Washington, posting an assist to give him a six-game point streak (three goals, four assists).
Atlanta used Evander Kane(notes) in that role when Kovalchuk was hurt in a 4-3 loss to San Jose on Saturday night. The 18-year-old Kane, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, has three goals and two assists.
Kane was held without a point in Atlanta’s 4-2 loss at Ottawa on Oct. 10. The Senators are 12-3-3 with one tie at home against the Thrashers.