It was already going to be loud at Scotiabank Place on Monday, this will only drive up the volume.
Not only will the Ottawa Senators benefit from having Chris Neil, one of their most influential playoff performers, in their lineup for Monday’s elimination contest with the New York Rangers, captain Daniel Alfredsson could feature as well.
“I’m hopeful; we’re obviously going to wait until tomorrow. But the way the last two days felt, I’m encouraged,” Alfredsson said after taking part in his team’s optional practice in Ottawa – the second straight day he has skated as he recovers from concussion.
Rangers coach John Tortorella berated Neil after Saturday’s fifth game – won 2-0 by Ottawa – saying the check he levelled on Brian Boyle, New York’s top playoff goal scorer, was a “dangerous, dangerous, cheap hit” and likening it to the check that led to a 25-game suspension for Phoenix’s Raffi Torres.
The NHL appears to have taken a different view – one that approximates Neil’s that it was “a clean hit.”
There was no penalty call on the play, in which Neil levelled Boyle as he cut toward the middle of the ice, and now it seems there will be no supplementary discipline.
Tortorella was considerably more circumspect at the Rangers’ optional skate on Sunday, saying he had no reaction to the news Neil won’t be punished.
The Rangers would argue Neil came in from the blind side and hit Boyle after the puck had left his stick, but it happened within a half-second and he kept his skates on the ice – marked differences with Torres’s hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa last week.
The prickly Neil, who has never been suspended by the NHL, has driven the Rangers to distraction and Ottawa coach Paul MacLean singled out his competitiveness as one of the reasons for the Senators’ success.
And Ottawa’s surge has arrived at a moment where the Rangers’ offence has dried up almost entirely.
Senators goalie Craig Anderson has stopped 66 consecutive shots and is carrying a shutout streak of 116 minutes 32 seconds into Monday’s game – after potting four goals in Game 1, the Rangers have notched only five in the four games since.
Boyle will sit out with a concussion, but the swift-skating Carl Hagelin will return after having served a three-game ban for elbowing Alfredsson.
The Rangers have found themselves tied 2-2 in the playoffs on 22 other occasions in franchise history, and in 20 of them, the team that won Game 5 advanced.
History is on Ottawa’s side, for whatever that’s worth.
With a report from The Canadian Press