|Craig Anderson has been the NHL's busiest goaltender this season and a key to the Senators' rise to playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. But he's out indefinitely now after suffering a laceration to his right hand while preparing a meal at home on Wednesday night (Getty Images).
In a season during which they've quieted plenty of doubters, the Ottawa Senators have overcome plenty of adversity.
Now they've got another big mountain to climb.
The Senators learned earlier this evening that starting goaltender Craig Anderson
is out indefinitely after suffering a laceration on his right (non-catching) hand Wednesday night while preparing a meal. The 31-year-old native of Park Ridge, Ill., was treated at hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
It's a huge blow for the Senators (32-22-8), who have relied heavily on Anderson in their rise to playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. In Ottawa's current four-game winning streak, Anderson has posted a 1.00 goals-against average, including a pair of shutouts. He currently leads the National Hockey League in games played (56), shots faced (1,692) and saves (1,544), and ranks fourth in wins (29).
The news of Anderson's mishap was dripping with irony for Senators centre Zenon Konopka
, who had been singing the goaltender's praises in the hours leading up to a launch event for his ZK28 line of wines tonight at the Empire Grill. It formed much of his conversation with former NHLer Keith Primeau, a guest at this evening's party and a co-founder of stopconcussions.com, which is receiving monetary support from the sale of Konopka's new product.
"When I picked up Keith Primeau from the airport, I was talking about how underrated Craig Anderson
is to our team," said Konopka. "I reiterated it the whole afternoon, how good he’s been and how he bails us out some nights when we’re not ready to play.
"Now this happens ... it’s a crushing blow to us as a Senators family and we just hope for a speedy recovery."
With Anderson on the shelf, all eyes now point toward backup Alex Auld
, who has seen limited duty this season. Anderson, who is 29-19-6 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .913 save percentage, has played in 27 of Ottawa's last 28 games.
Auld, meanwhile, has made 13 appearances in 2011-12, posting a 2-3-2 record with a 3.28 GAA. However, in his last start, he stopped 24 of his 27 shots he faced in a 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Feb. 9 that halted a seven-game Senators winless streak. Ottawa hasn't lost in regulation time since then.
On Friday morning, the Senators announced Robin Lehner
— the organization's top goaltender prospect — has been recalled from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators. In his lone NHL start earlier this season, the 20-year-old Lehner turned aside 23 of 25 shots he faced as Ottawa edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Oct. 30 at Scotiabank Place.
No matter who's between the pipes, the Senators will continue to soldier on.
"We wish we could have him (in the lineup)," forward Colin Greening
said of Anderson. "He’s been playing fantastic hockey. He’s been one of, if not our best player. But we have confidence in Alex Auld
and Robin Lehner
and that shows the depth of our team. We obviously wish Andy a speedy recovery, but this is a part of hockey and we’ll go from here.
’s last game for us, he played fantastic and hopefully, we can build from there."
On tap for the Senators this weekend are back-to-back home games. They'll face the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins on Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) before tangling with the New York Islanders the following evening (5 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). It's the last action for Ottawa before Monday's NHL trade deadline.