Ottawa Senators rookie Josh Norris centers a line with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson, the oldest of whom is 23.
The budding trio combined for five points Friday in a 4-1 victory at Dallas, helping Ottawa snap a three-game losing streak.
As they look to keep the Senators rolling during a visit to the slumping Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, the group credits a dedication to doing the little things.
“We’re playing with confidence, we’re playing simple, and I think that’s the main thing,” Norris said. “We know how we have to play in the last two games, and we’re just been kind of clicking and finding chemistry. Drake’s making plays and Brady’s on the forecheck, but it’s a lot of fun right now.”
Norris scored twice against the Stars, giving him five goals in seven games to open the season.
Ottawa coach D.J. Smith has been encouraged by the line’s output and the way Batherson, Norris and Tkachuk successfully have read off one another.
“That line continues to be dangerous,” Smith said. “They’re gonna get better. They’re all young guys that are learning to play together. They’ve got some physicality. They’ve got a net presence.”
Chicago still is searching for its first win of the season, as well as its first offensive output of more than three goals.
The Blackhawks are coming off Saturday’s 1-0 road loss to the St. Louis Blues. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 36 shots, but Chicago managed only 25 shots against the Blues’ Jordan Binnington.
“All I want is a win,” said Fleury, who has lost each of his first five starts with the Blackhawks. “It doesn’t matter how we get it. It was nice not to give up four or five or six goals. It’s been very frustrating. Embarrassing at times.”
Veteran forward Patrick Kane didn’t play Saturday, remaining day-to-day in COVID-19 protocol alongside teammates Jujhar Khaira and Riley Stillman. Center Tyler Johnson was scratched due to a sore neck.
Still, the Blackhawks know they can’t make excuses as they aim to reverse course from an abysmal October that saw the team earn just two points in nine games.
“This is tough,” Chicago forward Alex DeBrincat said. “It’s very frustrating. We know we have a way better team than we’ve showed. We’ve just got to find a way to muster up the energy to get through it.”
Ottawa hopes to keep the Blackhawks in a funk behind goaltender Filip Gustavsson, who made 38 saves at Dallas.
Citing the veteran presence of Kane and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, as well as a strong core of young players, Smith said the Senators would be wise not to underestimate the Blackhawks amid their season-opening struggles.
“They’re playing above the puck, and they’re not giving you freebies,” Smith said. “In the NHL, anyone can beat anyone. They’ve got Stanley Cup champions on their team with Toews and Kane, so there’s plenty of players over there. For whatever reason, they’re snakebitten over there. We’ve just got to worry about ourselves.”
–Field Level Media