MONTREAL – Filling in for injured starter Craig Anderson in the Ottawa Senators net was a great adventure for six-foot-seven goaltender Ben Bishop.
But with Anderson announced as the starter for Friday night’s game against the Canadiens in Montreal, Bishop was bumped to the job of backup netminder.
The Denver native can take heart in having some impressive moments while starting seven straight NHL games. He was 3-2-2 with an excellent 1.96 goals-against average and .925 save percentage over the stretch.
”It’s been a lot of fun,” the 25-year-old said. ”It was a great situation for me, that they wanted me at the (trade) deadline like that and then to get a chance to play some games.
”To play seven games in a row was really good for experience, especially in the race we’re in. They’re big games. Hopefully we can keep going and go far in the playoffs.”
Anderson sat out 12 games after he sliced the small finger on his right hand in a kitchen accident on Feb. 23.
Unsure of their goaltending situation with regular backup Alex Auld struggling, Senators GM Bryan Murray sent a 2013 second-round draft pick to the St. Louis Blues just before the trade deadline for Bishop, who had been brilliant this season for AHL Peoria.
Auld started the first game after Anderson’s injury, a 5-3 loss. Then callup Robin Lehner got four starts, winning two (including a shutout win over Boston) and losing two, before he was sent back to AHL Binghamton so that Bishop could get his chance.
Bishop played well enough to raise the question of whether the Senators should give him regular work even with Anderson back. When asked about it, coach Paul MacLean was quick to pronounce that ”Craig Anderson is the No. 1 goalie and we’re going to play it that way.”
That’s fine with Bishop, whose last outing was a 33-save 1-0 loss at home to New Jersey.
”Nothing really changes,” he said. ”I still have to prepare like I’m going to play, but obviously, Craig’s going to play most of the games.
”You just want to play well. Hopefully I can keep it going and not get too high or low. It wasn’t my goal to prove to other people that I could play because deep down inside, you know you can play at this level. I knew coming into it I would fare all right, but I’m happy with the starts.”
Captain Daniel Alfredsson said all the backups got the job done in Anderson’s absence.
”I don’t know if it changes anything,’ he said. ”Every team goes through injuries and it gives opportunities to different people.
”Robin played really good when he came in at first and when Ben came up, same thing. He gave us a chance to win every night. You can say it’s tough to lose your starting goaltender, and (Bishop) is playing really well, but both those guys did a great job. We could have had more wins if our offence had been a little hotter.”
Centre Jason Spezza noted the Sens were in a playoff position by seven points when Anderson was hurt and were still six ahead when he came back, so the goaltenders must have done the job.
Bishop was drafted 85th overall by St. Louis in 2005. The former Maine Black Bear got into 13 games for the Blues over the last three seasons, but wasn’t able to stick for long with the NHL club, although he had a long stretch two seasons ago where he was backup for the end of the season and into the playoffs.
Now Anderson takes back the job of keeping the Senators in a playoff spot. They’ll need to hold off the charging Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres over the last three weeks of the regular season.
”It’s been a long time, a long four weeks,” said Anderson. ”Getting back in there is something I’ve looked forward to.”
A silver lining is that he is well rested.
”Rest is definitely a positive spin to put on this incident,” he said. ” Playing a lot of games can take a toll on a player.
”Rest is definitely good. Look around the league at the some of the better teams and the better goaltenders. They’ve had a rest. A four-week break may not be the best situation but you’ve got to use it as a bonus to get recharged for the last little push.”