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Anderson relishing new life in 'a hockey town'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
New Senators goaltender Craig Anderson is relishing the hockey hotbed that exists in Ottawa and says he'd like to make it a long-term stop in his NHL career (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images).

Craig Anderson hasn't needed much time to figure out the lay of the land in his new hockey home.

His goaltending debut for the Senators — a 1-0 shutout of Ottawa's provincial rival Toronto Maple Leafs — is still the talk of the town. And every day since arriving in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, his stall in the team's dressing room is surrounded by a horde of media.

"It's a hockey town," Anderson said in a knowing tone when asked about the rush of interest in his every move on the ice so far. "It's one of the first times I'll be playing in a city that lives and dies through their hockey team. It's a great feeling knowing that the fans are behind you."

In Denver, his last hockey stop, the National Football League's Broncos, the National Basketball Association's Nuggets and baseball's Colorado Rockies rule the roost. Before that, Anderson toiled with the Florida Panthers, who face fierce competition for eyeballs from Miami's football (Dolphins), basketball (Heat) and baseball (Marlins) teams.

Not so north of the border, where hockey is a national passion. Then again, the 29-year-old Anderson first figured that out as a teenager when he tended goal for the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm. He's embraced Canada's love of the puck game ever since.

"Canada’s been really (good) to me," he said after practice earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "It’s been a great situation. When I left the U.S. as a 17-year-old to come and play in Guelph, it turned out for the best. I’m pretty sure leaving the U.S. market again and coming to a Canadian city … there’s no doubt in my mind it can be a good thing."

Already, he likes the idea of staying here. The native of Park Ridge, Ill., is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but he's quickly warmed up to the idea of extending his stay with the Senators.

"It’s a place that I definitely want to be," said Anderson. "Hopefully, everything works out and I can come in here and do a job and everybody (on both sides) is able to do something about that."

On a team that's been offensively challenged for much of this season, Anderson might be just the right fit if his "first impression" is any indication.

"I kind of relish the moment of being in a 1-0 or 2-1 game," he said. "Even if you have a high-powered (offensive) team, you never know how many goals you’re going to score on a given night. So if you can build a solid defence and get a good system in order and prepare like you’re going to win every game 1-0 … then you’re going to win a lot more games than you lose."

The injury-riddled Senators might get Anderson some reinforcements to help the cause Wednesday night, when the Panthers visit Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). Forward Jesse Winchester and defenceman Chris Campoli, who have been sidelined with lower-body injuries, both practised today and could be available for duty.

While Campoli, who's missed two games, termed himself as "probably questionable" for tomorrow, Winchester was more hopeful he'll line up against the Panthers.

"I want to be back in there and I pushed it pretty hard today," said Winchester, who's been sidelined for the previous four games. "I’ve had a couple of good days of workouts and a lot of the pain is gone. I’m hopeful but until then, we’ll see how it responds after today. Hopefully, (I'm back) sooner than later.

"I just don’t want it to become a recurring thing. The improvement from yesterday to today was really positive, I think. If continues to improve like that, I don’t think I’ll be out tomorrow."

Around the boards

Captain Daniel Alfredsson (lower back) could be "weeks away" from returning to the Senators lineup, head coach Cory Clouston acknowledged today. "It's the type of injury that one day, it feels a certain way and another day, it feels another way," said Clouston. " We're not going to put him in a situation where it could (lead to) further damage" ... The Senators haven't received all the medical test results yet, but centre Peter Regin (left shoulder) is out "indefinitely," Clouston confirmed. "It's not short term, it's going to be long term," he said ...  Goaltender Pascal Leclaire has two days of practice under his belt with the Binghamton Senators, but Clouston said he isn't likely to start for Ottawa's American Hockey League affiliate until at least the weekend. "He's just not quite ready," said Clouston.

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