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A sort of homecoming for Auld with Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Veteran goaltender Alex Auld has returned to Ottawa to serve as the backup to Senators starter Craig Anderson. The two netminders also currently live in the same Florida neighbourhood (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images).

They're former teammates who currently share a neighbourhood in the Sunshine State.

Undoubtedly, they'll do just fine splitting duties in the crease in Ottawa.

Calling it "a bit of a homecoming," veteran Alex Auld signed on for his second stint as a Senators goaltender, agreeing on a one-year contract today. Ironically, the last time the 30-year-old stopper called the nation's capital home, he inked his deal on Canada Day three years ago.

"There’s a familiarity with the team, with the city and the relationship with (Senators general manager) Bryan Murray dates back to when I was drafted by the Panthers in '99," said Auld, a native of Cold Lake, Alta. "At the end of the day, it was what made the most sense."

Florida was also where he first got to know Craig Anderson, the goaltender he'll back up this season in Ottawa. The two netminders are both spending their summer in the Florida sunshine, where each is also expecting a new child soon. And they live close enough together that they may find time to discuss both their new arrivals and hockey homes.

"We know each other going back to junior (hockey)," said Auld. "We don’t know each other super well, but we had a couple of months together as teammates in Florida (in 2006-07). We’re both spending the summer down in Florida this year and our houses are probably 10 minutes apart.

"I don’t how much time we’re going to spend together because we’re both having babies here shortly, so we’ll both be very busy. But it’s kind of interesting the way it worked out, that we live 10 minutes apart here."

Auld is also eminently familiar and comfortable with the backup role, having seen just 16 games' worth of action behind Carey Price in Montreal last season. Since suiting up for the Senators in 2008-09, he's gone through one-year stints with both the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars. His National Hockey League resume also includes previous stints in Vancouver, Phoenix and Boston.

"He's a guy that understands the role," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray. "He understands that we've got Robin Lehner waiting in the wings to come and play within a year. I didn't want to go for (long) term with the backup guy and Alex was receptive to that. So he was happy to play that role, which I think Alex does very well, and it gives us security in that we have another veteran player."

While he doesn't expect to see much game duty, Auld promises to give the Senators steady play whenever he's called upon to slide between the pipes.

"The biggest thing is that you always want to put the team first," he said. "Then you have the habits and work ethic that you come to practice every day ready to work, so that whether you’re playing once a week or once a month, every time you’re in the net you give yourself the best chance and your team the best chance and you’re going to show well.

"It’s important that you have the self-discipline day after day and you have some small goals daily and you focus on some little things to stay sharp."

Though his previous time in Ottawa lasted just one season, he has fond memories of the city.

"There are some people that we were really close with, both my wife and I and ... it was a challenging year when we were there from a hockey perspective, but the people made it so great," he said. "The people within the organization, the teammates, the fans, the citizens of Ottawa ... it’s a place we really loved to live and I think that makes it that much easier, when you feel excited about all those things."

Also today, the Senators re-signed veteran tough guy Francis Lessard to a one-year, two-way contract. But Murray resisted the temptation to dive into the free-agent pool in a big way today, preferring to stay the course in the organization's plan to build for a more youthful future.

"Our plan, starting at the trading deadline last year, was to put some young people on our team and compete because of energy, maybe not experience, and that’s what we’re going to try to do," said Murray. "I talked to (team owner) Eugene Melnyk about that several times this morning to make it very clear that from him and from me, the direction is firm in what we’re trying to do here. Patience will be a little bit required, but I think we’ve got some upside in a number of young people and that’s sort of the route we've decided to go."

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