By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
|Goaltender Craig Anderson (Getty Images)
Craig Anderson doesn’t necessarily draw a line connecting his record-setting performance last March on Long Island to his shutout victory Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Since suiting up to play the Islanders and stopping a record 53 shots in helping the Panthers to a 1-0 victory March 2 – and then following up with a 40-save shutout in Boston two days later – Anderson’s record with the Panthers is 9-2-3.
His goals against: 1.76. His save percentage: .952.
Anderson is hot, and it’s no wonder coach Peter DeBoer will continue riding Anderson come Tuesday evening when the Panthers take on Alex Ovechkin and the Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals.
It’s another big game for the Panthers, who have earned six points in their last four games and are only five points out of second in the Southeast.
Anderson, who made 37 saves Sunday against the Rangers, gave credit to his teammates for their energy during the game. “I sensed the energy from our guys warming up,” Anderson said. “I saw we were really ready for the game.”
The Panthers practiced in Washington, D.C., Monday afternoon but were without David Booth, who is nursing a sore shoulder. Booth will be out against Washington. The Panthers called up Kenndal McArdle from their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester to take his place in the lineup. McArdle, a former first-round pick in the 2005 Entry Draft, has three goals and seven assists in 22 games with Rochester.
For Anderson, 27, a native of Park Ridge, Ill., it’s more a matter of “getting rewarded for all the practice and preparation.”
“If you’re not working hard at practice I think you create bad habits and it carries over to the games,” Anderson said. “You learn starting in the minors to be prepared. You learn it’s a matter of being consistent. In your first couple call-ups (to the NHL) you learn so much. You learn discipline, you learn to be ready every night. In Chicago (in 2002-06) I kind of lost track of that maybe and I had to take a step back.
“But I learned you have to take advantage of your opportunities. Sometimes you see guys who get opportunities because of an injury or guys aren’t playing as well and they don’t do anything with it and maybe they miss out and get labeled (as a backup).”
Not that Anderson hasn’t hit a few bumps in the road. He was pulled Nov. 14 after allowing two goals against the Red Wings, and DeBoer admitted he almost took Anderson out of goal after allowing two quick goals at the BankAtlantic Center against the Rangers on Friday.
But Anderson didn’t let either game or a couple soft goals wear him down.
“You just have to get to work the next day at practice,” he said. “You’re never as bad as you think you are and you’re never as good as you think you are.”
Anderson says while the consecutive shutouts last spring in Long Island and Boston were huge confidence boosters, he believes the Panthers can win any night against any team.
“It’s more the way we play,” Anderson said. “We just have to play the way we’re capable of and we’ll be fine.”NOTES
Ovechkin, who led the NHL with 25 points in November, was named the league’s First Star of the Month. In 14 games, Ovechkin had 11 goals and was a plus-9…The Capitals come into Tuesday’s game off a 3-0 loss to the Blue Jackets. They have lost four of their last six…