|4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET22:00 BRT, January 1, 2022
Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario Attendance: 989
Senators still dealing with COVID as they return vs. Leafs
After two extended layoffs due to COVID-19 protocols, the Ottawa Senators once again return to action Saturday night, but without top center Josh Norris and winger Tyler Ennis, who entered COVID-19 protocols Friday heading into their game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.
Norris and Ennis entered protocols before the Senators held practice on Friday. The Senators also held out from practice Nick Paul and Dillon Heatherington for precautionary reasons, with their availability to be determined Saturday.
Attendance at games in Ontario is being limited to 1,000 as part of new COVID-19 restrictions released by the province on Thursday.
The Senators' schedule was paused for three games in November and then again with the rest of the league in December. They have not played since Dec. 18 when they lost 4-3 in overtime to the host Philadelphia Flyers.
The Maple Leafs last played on Dec. 14 when they defeated the host Edmonton Oilers 5-1.
Senators coach D.J. Smith said Tim Stuetzle would replace Norris as the center on a line with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson.
"We'll start that way and see how things go," Smith said on a media Zoom call. "Losing Josh is a huge loss, but (Adam) Gaudette is going to get a chance to get in there, and we'll look at the rest of the lineup depending on health.
"Guys are going to get some chances. ... you're going to have to learn to win some games sometimes when your rosters aren't where you need them to be, and this is one of those games."
Tkachuk said Stuetzle will be a good fit on his line.
"It was nice to get that little practice today and everyone knows the type of player that he is and how skilled he is," Tkachuk said. "It's definitely exciting to be able to play with him and us three. It's exciting to see the chemistry we have. We're excited about the challenge we've got against the Leafs."
Timothy Liljegren is the only Maple Leaf still on COVID-19 protocol, although coach Sheldon Keefe said he was unsure of the status of Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and William Nylander heading into the game.
Mitchell Marner, who suffered a shoulder injury in a practice collision with Muzzin on Dec. 3, has been at practice this week, working on a line with Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting.
"We've started this week back playing with one another and building the chemistry that we left off before Mitchie got hurt," Bunting said. "Mitch hasn't skipped a beat. He's making plays, he's playing fast. It hasn't seemed like he has missed any time. It's fun having him back on our line."
Rasmus Sandin, who suffered a knee injury in a game against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 5, should be ready to play Saturday.
"I was skating a little bit before I had to go into quarantine," Sandin said Thursday, "but stepping on the ice and seeing all the guys again, it was great and some of the most fun I've had in a long time."
"Sandin looked really good and confident," Keefe said Thursday.
David Kampf and Ilya Mikheyev were among the players released from the protocol, and Keefe said they "skated really well, did a lot of good things. They are two of our fittest players."
--Field Level Media
Updated December 31, 2021