The Senators hope Craig Anderson makes a quick return
The Ottawa Senators headed their separate ways for the NHL’s holiday break Sunday morning.
The best gift the Senators can receive when they return to practice Thursday morning at the Canadian Tire Centre is a healthy Craig Anderson in the net.
While the Senators planned to start their top goalie in the final game before Christmas, the 37-year-old Anderson was a scratch with an upper body injury after he took a hit to the head from Miles Wood Friday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Pulled after two periods vs. the Devils for the purpose of saving him for Saturday’s visit by the Washington Capitals, the Senators had to go back to their original plan to give backup Mike McKenna the start in a 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals at home.
The Senators are hopeful by the time they return to work Friday night against the New York Islanders in Brooklyn, Anderson will be ready to return and, if he doesn’t suit up then, he’ll be able to face the Capitals Saturday night for their return visit to Ottawa.
The good news is Anderson wasn’t placed on the injured-reserve list so he’ll be available to play as long as he’s healthy.
“I’m not sure of the details (of the injury) but he’s been an absolute rock for us back there,” alternate captain Mark Borowiecki said Saturday night. “He’s faced a lot of rubber every night.
“Anytime you’ve got a guy facing that many shots and coming up big for you, he’s obviously a huge part of the team. I thought (McKenna) did an outstanding job (against the Caps) and it’s nice to know you’ve got an option like that in there.
“He came in and made some huge saves for us. It’d be nice to get Craig back but we’ve kind of got to roll with the punches here.”
Losing Anderson is a punch to the gut. He has seen action in 31 of the club’s 37 games this season. Ottawa has 15 wins and Anderson has been in net for 14 of them. He has a 14-13-3 record with a .905 save-percentage and a 3.58 goals-against average.
Anderson has been the league’s busiest goalie this season by making 991 saves on 1,095 by shots. Anaheim’s John Gibson has made 918 stops on 991 shots. Both have participated in 31 games and no the Senators aren’t in a playoff position but it could be ugly without him.
The issue for the Senators is they really don’t have a lot of options because of what’s happening behind Anderson.
Goaltender Mike Condon, who was supposed to push Anderson for the No. 1 job this season, struggled early, cleared waivers Oct. 31 and was sent to the club’s AHL affiliate in Belleville. He hasn’t been seen a whole lot since and it’s anybody’s guess when he’ll play.
Trying to recover from a hip injury, Condon saw a specialist last month in New York and doesn’t need surgery. He is expected to return to Belleville in January but even if he does play he’s going to need time to try to get his game back together in the AHL.
Condon hasn’t suited up Belleville since he allowed six goals on 23 shots in a 7-6 victory over the Toronto Marlies Nov. 9.
When Condon went down with injury, the Senators were scouring the goalie market. You have to wonder if the club might go that toute because the Senators don’t want to bring up top prospect netminder Filip Gustavsson from their AHL affiliate yet.
Yes, goalie Marcus Hogberg was recalled from Belleville to dress Saturday and was immediately sent back, but when that happens it leaves the AHL team shorthanded. With the timing of Condon’s return anybody’s guess, it makes sense to have options.
Rosters are frozen — with the exception of emergency recalls until Dec. 27 at midnight — but the Senators hope Anderson is only out for the short-term. He is spending Christmas in Ottawa with his family which means he can see the medical staff here.
As coach Guy Boucher noted before the loss to the Caps, if Anderson is ready to play against the Islanders or Caps after the break then the Senators won’t really miss a beat.
You have to give McKenna credit because the 35-year-old has shown he can play and compete at this level. He has a 1-3-1 record with a .902 save-percentage and a 3.79 GAA in nine appearances this season with the Senators.
If McKenna has to carry the ball for the time being, the Senators swear they won’t fret about it and they have confidence he can get the job done.
“(Anderson’s) played really well for us this year, but you (McKenna) is playing really well for us to,” said centre Matt Duchene. “We’ve got depth at that position right now.
“We want our starter back and it’s a big loss for our team but anytime (Anderson) hasn’t been in and (McKenna) has gone in lately, he’s played three or four really solid games for us.”