OTTAWA – A freak accident could threaten the Ottawa Senators playoff drive.
Goalie Craig Anderson underwent surgery on his right hand after severing the tendon in his small finger while preparing a meal following Ottawa’s 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
While the initial prognosis wasn’t good, Senators general manager Bryan Murray said Friday that the situation has improved.
“We were told (Thursday) it was going to be some period of time. (Friday) we got a little better news,” said Murray. “As soon as he feels comfortably he can handle a stick, he’ll be back on the ice, probably as early as next week.
“When he can handle a stick, he can probably get ready to play. There’s no time frame. We’re optimistic that it won’t be a long, long time.”
Losing Anderson for any amount of time will be difficult for the Senators (32-22-8) and their playoff hopes. Heading into Friday’s action, the team sat seventh in the Eastern Conference—six points up on eighth-place Florida and seven points ahead of Toronto.
The 30-year-old Anderson has been a major reason for Ottawa’s success as he carried the weight of the workload.
He’s played 27 of the club’s past 28 games and 56 overall, a league high, compiling a 29-19-6 record, 2.85 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in the process.
“Every team goes through stretches of injuries and what not and I think we’ve been fairly fortunate to this point,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “It’s never ideal but we move on and you do the best with what you have. Guys usually find a way to step up when these circumstances come up so we’re just going to keep going.
“We’ve faced adversity pretty much the whole year and I don’t think this will faze us.”
The Senators recalled Robin Lehner from the American Hockey League and will give backup Alex Auld the start Saturday against Boston.
Auld has started just seven games this season, going 2-3-2 with a 3.28 GAA and a .883 save percentage. He’s made just one start since Dec. 31.
“Craig is a huge part of our team and this is a tough loss for us,” said Auld. “We have a group capable of playing good hockey and we’ve got to keep that going. I’m really looking forward to (the challenge). I’ve maintained all year I just want to stay sharp and be ready for the opportunity.”
Auld admits the fact the team is playing well right now, having won three of four, makes things a little easier.
“We’ve been getting contributions throughout the lineup offensively, but guys have really committed to the play in our end, the play in the neutral zone that’s a huge part of our game,” said Auld. “We’re playing a system, playing together as a group and we expect that to continue.”
While Lehner is seen as the Senators goaltender of the future he hasn’t had the most inspiring season.
After helping the Binghamton Senators win the Calder Cup last spring, Lehner is 8-16-1 this season with a 3.38 GAA and .905 save percentage.
“It’s been a tough season for all of us down there,” said Lehner. “Obviously it hasn’t been what we all wanted it to be. This is a good opportunity and if I see the ice I just need to try to do my best and help the team.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean says the team will take a day-to-day approach with their goaltenders.
“We’re going to try to do it the same way we’ve done all year,” said MacLean. “We’re going to evaluate who were playing and based on that who gives us the best opportunity to win, just like we’ve done since day one.”
The Senators play back-to-back home games starting with the Bruins Saturday and the New York Islanders Sunday. While Murray hasn’t ruled out acquiring additional help, he’ll have little time to make the decision with the trade deadline on Monday afternoon.
“I don’t know that there’s anybody available,” said Murray. “I hear all the other teams that are trying to get goaltenders. I’m not sure the approach right now. I want to see us play here.
“We have a couple games before that so let me watch.”