OTTAWA – The injury to goaltender Craig Anderson isn’t as severe as it originally appeared, which is some rare good news for the struggling Ottawa Senators.
Anderson was injured Sunday afternoon after being hit by Valeri Nichushkin of the Dallas Stars. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher, but was later seen walking on his own.
Senators coach Paul MacLean said Monday that Anderson had suffered a sprained neck and wouldn’t be travelling to Columbus with the team for Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets.
“All the tests and scans and whatever they did last night came back all negative and he’s day-to-day depending on the level of comfort with a stiff neck,” said MacLean. “We’ll see when we come back Wednesday where he is for Thursday and onward, but it’s as positive as can be.”
Robin Lehner will get the start Tuesday for the Senators, who have just one win in their last seven games. Nathan Lawson is expected to be recalled from Binghamton to serve as back-up.
Lehner is 0-2-2 this season, but his teammates have full confidence in his abilities.
The 22-year-old was instrumental last season when Anderson suffered an ankle injury and in his five appearances this season has played well. He has faced 50 or more shots three times.
“(Lehner) has proved that he can fill in more than enough,” said defenceman Marc Methot. “We have all the confidence in the world in him. He’s a competitor just by nature. He works real hard, he’s always prepared so he’s the kind of guy you want in your corner.”
Riding a five-game winless streak and desperate for a win, the Senators realize they can only take so much out of moral victories.
Still, the players feel like things are finally turning around, on the defensive end at least.
“I think we’re starting to figure it out,” Methot said. “We allowed less shots (Sunday) and that’s been an issue in the past few weeks and we’re starting to resolve that. Right now defensively we’re just trying to clamp down in our own end and not allow all these opportunities that we’ve been giving up.”
Following the team’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Stars, MacLean spoke of his team’s effort and how they were “digging in.” On Monday, the coach was much more direct in his view of what his team needs to accomplish.
“We need victories, not moral victories, but we have to start somewhere,” said MacLean. “I think the last two games we started to dig in and get an identity that we can work with and play with and we have to continue to work at it. We have to find a way to win a game and the next one is (Tuesday) night.”
Captain Jason Spezza said the effort has been there, but the team needs to find a way to win.
“You hope that when you get out of a losing streak you usually have to play a couple half decent games to get rewarded for it and hopefully we can get rewarded (Tuesday) night,” said Spezza. “We’re playing a team that we don’t know very well, which sometimes can be a good thing because you just worry about your own game and make sure we’re playing how we want to play.”
Bobby Ryan, who had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s game, admits the team has had its share of disappointments, but feels the team as a whole has a better attitude about its current situation.
“I think before we were focusing too much on the negative and the room was down and the morale wasn’t very high, meetings were longer and things like that,” said Ryan. “You shouldn’t have to think about it more than that. You should voice your concerns and move on and I think we’ve done that. Now the process is to stay optimistic…and I think the general feeling in the room is we feel better than we did a week ago.”
Tuesday’s game will be Methot’s first game back in Columbus since being acquired by the Senators in a trade in July 2012.
“It’s been a couple seasons now since I had a chance to play there and I’m looking forward to it,” said Methot. “A lot of the players are gone…but a lot of people off the ice that I still talk to are there.”
Notes: Carleton University’s Ryan Dube was called in to serve as the second goaltender at practice. There were a few new line combinations at practice Monday. As things stand it looks as though this will be how players will line up Tuesday. Greening-Spezza-Zibanejad, MacArthur-Turris-Ryan, Michalek-Smith-Neil, Kassian-Grant Conacher. The defence pairings were Phillips-Gryba, Cowen-Karlsson, Borowiecki-Methot, and it looks as though Patrick Wiercioch and Joe Corvo will be healthy scratches.