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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 21, 2020
The Ottawa Senators will have to soldier on without one of their best defencemen.
Blueliner Dylan DeMelo, who took a shot in the hand from Brendan Gallagher with eight minutes left in the club’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, will be sidelined with a broken finger.
That means DeMelo, who is averaging 19:50 per night while playing mostly with top blueliner Thomas Chabot lately, could be out three weeks to a month.
“He may be the most underrated player on our team and certainly in the league,” coach D.J. Smith told reporters Friday following a short skate. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how stable he is back there and just breaks up a lot of plays you just don’t notice, but it’ll give a chance to somebody else.”
As a result, Max Lajoie, a healthy scratch in three straight, will play in Saturday’s matinée visit by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Canadian Tire Centre. Losing DeMelo, acquired in the deal that sent Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, is a big blow because he has been perfect in the role he’s been asked to play this season.
DeMelo has been stable and consistent. He played with alternate captain Mark Borowiecki earlier this year, and the duo had good chemistry.
“He’s been a big-time steadying influence back there,” Borowiecki said. “He’s just one of those Steady Eddie guys that eats up some important minutes for us. Most teams want at least one defenceman like that because there are no glaring holes in their game, and he’s been a great teammate for us.”
Borowiecki said DeMelo’s best attribute is that he’s even-keeled.
“For me, he’s a calming influence on the bench,” Borowiecki said. “When I was getting worked up emotionally, he was there to kind of talk me down a little bit and calm me down. He helped my game and you can see he does much the same for (Chabot).
“Guys like that in the league tend to do well for themselves. If you want a guy who can play 18-plus every night and not make any mistakes, he’s that kind of guy. You look at a guy like (Marc-Edouard) Vlasic when he was in his prime, he didn’t really wow you with anything, but he tended to make the right play the majority of time.
“A lot of parallels can be drawn between him and DeMelo. Credit to him he’s done a great job coming out of that San Jose organization where he didn’t have a lot of opportunity.”
The club will recall either Andreas Englund or Christian Jaros from Belleville to accompany them on a two-game trip to Florida.
A GRANDPA WILL MAKE DAD’S TRIP
Since they didn’t have a fathers’ trip when Keith Tkachuk was an NHL player, his father will be along for the ride when the Senators make the trek to Florida on Saturday night.
Winger Brady Tkachuk will bring grandpa Chuck this weekend and his mother Chantal’s father will accompany brother Matthew on the Calgary Flames’ fathers’ trip later this season.
“They didn’t really have fathers’ trips when my dad was playing and my dad has lived it,” Tkachuk said Friday. “To have him, and with my brother taking my mom’s dad, it should be fun for them to experience the fathers’ trip.”
The players look forward to having their dads along for the ride. The players room with their fathers, eat all their meals together and usually the coaching staff will have the dads attend the pre-game meetings to understand what the approach will be that night.
Winger Connor Brown will have his father, Danny, who coached him growing up, on the trip for the weekend.
“It was a little different because he had so much to do with my success being my coach for so many years in minor hockey all the way up,” Brown said. “He taught me a lot and as I got to pro I still lean on him for certain things. He understands the game, the systems and what we’re trying to accomplish so he’s an easy guy to talk to.”
DeMelo will accompany the team to Florida with his father as well.
THE LAST WORDS
Goaltender Craig Anderson was on the ice the last couple of days and will make the trip to Florida with the Senators, but won’t play. “I would think it will be seven to 10 days and we’ll see him back,” Smith said. The expectation is Anders Nilsson and Marcus Hogberg are going to split the games Monday in Florida and Tuesday in Tampa. Nilsson will start Saturday against the Jackets at home. … Smith is close friends with newly appointed San Jose coach Bob Boughner and the two have spoken a couple of times in the last few days. Smith was part of Boughner’s staff with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. “Peter DeBoer is a great coach and he’s done a great job there,” Smith said. “For Bobby to have his opportunity again, you wait your whole life to have an opportunity and you never know how it’s going to go. The circumstances weren’t great, but he’s excited to have his chance. It’s a quick turnaround and he’s going to need a few practice days, but I wish him all the best.”
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