Jared Cowen is going to be relied upon even more with Carkner out because he's going to be the only real force back there who can clear a crease or lay on the body with authority. Chris Phillips, more of an all-around defenseman, can play that game when he has to but it's not really his specialty. The Senators have always had a mean, physical shutdown player back there, whether it was Zdeno Chara, Anton Volchenkov or more recently, Carkner.
The good news is that Cowen has looked like a vet so far and he's got the size to move bodies back there. It also means David Rundblad gets some more time to try and break into the top 6. Right now it looks like he's out of the first three pairings as James Gordon reported Monday after practice. The top 6 duos are Phillips-Lee, Cowen-Gonchar and Kuba-Karlsson.
Who would drop out if Rundblad were to get a chance? Injuries might take care of that problem anyways, but there's no easy answer right now. The quick answer would be Filip Kuba taking a seat but does Paul MacLean want Erik Karlsson and Rundblad together? I doubt it. MacLean will probably give Kuba first chance to show he can still contribute because he's a veteran and the Sens have two tough road games to start the season with in Detroit and Toronto. MacLean may not want to feed Rundblad to the wolves in the Joe Louis arena just yet. He knows too well what guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg can do to a rookie who is only on the outer edge of being truly ready.
Again, all this could change either before game one or immediately after if the Sens get off to a rough start on the road. Maybe we see Rundblad against Dany Heatley and the Wild in the home opener.
If Chris Phillips manages to stay healthy and plays every game through early February, he'll log his 1000th match Feb. 4 at home against the Leafs. The boy who was to become known as "The Big Rig" played his first regular season game at only 19 years old against the Montreal Canadiens on October 1st, 1997. In that game he played 17 shifts without a point, but he got his first point at home, an assist, against the New York Rangers three games later on Oct. 15.
His first goal came by the end of the month on Oct. 30 in Miami when the Sens romped over the Panthers 5-2. Phillips put it by goalie Mark Fitzpatrick. Current Sens GM Bryan Murray was also the Panthers GM at the time. I'm pretty sure that Phillips was playing as a forward for this game (as he did occasionally early on in his career) because the Senators defense listed for that night also includes Jason York, Igor Kravchuk, Sean Hill, Janne Laukkanen, Stan Neckar, Wade Redden and Lance Pitlick. That's eight natural defenseman, so Jacques Martin must have been using Phillips up front, although I can't be sure. Other players to score in that game were Daniel Alfredsson, Andreas Dackell, Denny Lambert and Laukkanen. The Sens goalie of record was Damian "The Net" Rhodes.
But whatever Phillips does in the future, it's going to be hard to beat this overtime goal against Martin Brodeur in 2003 to keep the Sens alive in the Eastern Conference Final. Easily the craziest celebration I've ever seen the Senators have. Zdeno Chara nearly delivers the all-time mother of celebratory headshots to Phillips by leaping into the pile like a madman.
Some other milestones that can be reached this year in Ottawa:
If healthy, Chris Neil will pass his good buddy Mike Fisher on the all-time games played list Friday Nov. 11 in Buffalo against the Sabres, which would be Neil's 676th game, all in a Senators uniform. Neil also has 1000 more penalty minutes than the next name on the Sens all-time list, and that name is Chris Phillips with 655 PIMs. Neil has 1683.
Jason Spezza can pass Alexei Yashin for second place on the all-time goals list if he can score at least 27 goals this season to pass Yashin's total of 218. Spezza sits at 192. He's scored more than 30 goals three times so far in his career but he hasn't done that in two seasons. Here's betting he gets it done in 2012.
People talk about Chris Phillips league worst plus/minus last season but the Big Rig is still a healthy +73 for his career. The Sens all-time +/- leader is Wade Redden at +159. Not too shabby.
Daniel Alfredsson is currently the 69th best scorer in NHL history with 1023 points, sitting above names like Jarome Iginla (1006) and Maurice "The Rocket" Richard (965). He's about to pass Alexei Kovalev (1024), Brian Leetch (1028), Alexander Mogilny (1032), Doug Weight (1033) and former Ottawa 67 Bobby Smith (1036). If Alfie has a good comeback season with say 60 or 65 points, he'll be up around 57th all-time passing the likes of Henri Richard, Denis Potvin, Joe Mullen, Keith Tkachuk, Dave Taylor and Theo Fleury. Notice there's a few Hall Of Famers in that list. If he has a great season of 70 or more points, he'll be pushing HOF'ers Glenn Anderson and Frank Mahovolich for the top 55 position. Fellow countryman Nicklas Lidstrom currently sits at 54th all-time with 1108 points.
Hopefully for the Senators, he doesn't add to that total in the season opener this Friday.