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January 9, 2013 | 7:13pm ET
Season Preview: Ottawa
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com

Entering the 2011-2012 season, expectations were not high for the Ottawa Senators. They were not considered to be a serious contender to make the playoffs, by any stretch, but after a slow start, the Sens picked up steam and finished the season in second place in the Northeast Conference with 92 points, which put them in the playoffs. Head coach Paul MacLean's squad took on the No. 1 team in the East, the New York Rangers, in the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals before bowing out in a seven games. After the post-season, the organization, happy with its club, made few changes. The Sens re-signed 2012 Norris Trophy winning defenseman Erik Karlsson to a seven-year contract, forward Kyle Turris to a five-year contract extension and forward Kaspars Daugavins to a one-year deal. The club bought out Bobby Butler, who wore out his welcome after a very subpar season. The Senators added size and offense to the blueline by selecting Cody Ceci from the Ottawa 67s with the 15th overall selection of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Forwards

Up front, the Senators saw the rejuvenation of center Jason Spezza last season. The 29-year-old forward led the club in scoring with 84 points on 34 goals (10 on the powerplay) and 50 assists. That production saw Spezza end the season fourth in the NHL's points race. Milan Michalek was the other Senator to score more than 30 goals, totalling 35. Add in his 25 assists and he reached 60 points for the second time in his career. Daniel Alfredsson came just shy of the 30 goal mark. He scored 27 and concluded his season with 59 points. The 40-year-old captain of the Senators was expected to retire during this past off-season but announced he will return for another year in Ottawa. After those three, the Sens will look for continued production from Colin Greening, who surpassed expectations during his rookie campaign with 17 goals.

Defense

From the blueline, Ottawa received the fruits of its 2008 first round (15th overall) selection as Erik Karlsson had a breakout year to be named winner of the 2012 Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman. It is no coincidence that his 78 points played a big role in his winning the prestigious award. Karlsson was second in team scoring and 10th in the NHL. Entering his third year in the league, the Swedish native is sure to add more Norris Trophies to his mantle before he calls it a career. Joining Karlsson on this solid defense corps are 17-year veteran Sergei Gonchar, 15-year vet Chris Phillips, and 20-somethings Marc Methot, Jared Cowen and Mike Lundin. This is a big, mobile group that will be a mainstay for the Senators for quite a while.

Goalies

Between the pipes, Craig Anderson took over as the starter after spending 10 seasons as a backup with Chicago, Florida and Colorado. He saw action in 63 games and posted a 33-22-6 record. His 33 wins were 10th best in the NHL, where Anderson is fast becoming an elite puck stopper. Big six-foot-seven netminder Ben Bishop will be Anderson's back up. The 26-year-old signed last year with the Sens after spending parts of three seasons with the St. Louis Blues. Last season, Bishop played in ten games and posted a 3-3-0-2 record. The Denver native brings size and quickness to the crease which makes him a more than capable backup.

Projected Outcome

The Ottawa Senators satisfied their fans by making it into the last year's playoffs. This year, those same fans will only be happy with a deep run in the post-season and ultimately a Stanley Cup victory. After watching the Los Angeles Kings go from eighth overall in last year's Western Conference to Stanley Cup champions, it is clear that anything can happen in post-season play. The Senators will qualify for another run by repeating last season's performance, and may have all the pieces in place to reach the Final.

3 Players to Watch
 
Erik Karlsson
It might be a stretch to expect the equivalent of another 78-point season from Karlsson (say 45 points in 48 games), but if he can come close, the Senators will be good shape heading into May's playoffs.
Milan Michalek
While many expect Jason Spezza to have another bright season, Michalek's eye for the net pushed the Senators last season. They'll need his goal-scoring abilities to be at a high this year if they want to make a deeper run in the post-season.
Craig Anderson
Karlsson and Michalek can have All-Star seasons once again, but without a solid performance by goaltender Craig Anderson, the Senators won't go anywhere once the playoffs start in May. Anderson will be heavily counted on this year, and if the pressure gets to him, the team might have to look elsewhere.

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