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Anderson: 'The timeline is wide open right now'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators goaltender Craig Anderson has begun skating in his gear but until he can grip his stick relatively pain-free, he says he won't be ready to return to game action with the team (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

With each passing day, he can feel himself picking up a little more speed down the proverbial road to recovery.

That's the good news — as it now stands — for Craig Anderson. But ask the Ottawa Senators goaltender when he expects to cross the finish line and return to the lineup and the response isn't anywhere near as clear.

"It's hard to say," Anderson said in addressing the media for the first time since slicing a tendon in his right pinky finger in a freak kitchen accident eight days ago. "The timeline is wide open right now."

Anderson has started skating with all his goaltending gear on, including a modified blocker that covers the injured hand. But until he can grip a stick with that appendage, the 30-year-old native of Park Ridge, Ill., will be forced to play the waiting game. However, he wants the rest of his body to be in tip-top game shape when the call to action finally does arrive.

"All I can do right now is make sure I stay in shape," said Anderson. "I'm able to go out there and skate with my gear on, so that's the main thing right now — just keeping my legs (in shape) and keeping everything strong so that when I do have a chance to come back, I'm physically ready to go.

"The pain factors into it, and we don't want to reinjure it. So there's a lot of things to take into consideration, but holding a stick is one of the main things that enables me to do my job."

Added head coach Paul MacLean: "That's a good sign, that he's on the ice and he's maintaining his conditioning ... I'm not even going to speculate (on a return date). It all depends on how he can heal, I would say."

While Anderson has been frustrated by the turn of events, he's heartened by the play of his teammates so far in his absence. With rookie Robin Lehner between the pipes, the Senators rolled past the New York Islanders 5-2 and blanked the Boston Bruins 1-0 earlier this week. The 20-year-old from Goteborg, Sweden, has been tabbed for a third straight start on Friday night, when the Chicago Blackhawks visit Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).

"It was an unfortunate freak accident, but you've got to stay positive," said Anderson. "The guys have been playing great. Robin's played outstanding the last couple of games and he's giving the team an opportunity to win. If we can continue to win hockey games, that's really all that matters. It's a team game and I'm just as big a part of it as any of the guys, whether I'm injured or not. I can just be the guy with the big pom-poms right now.

"All I can do is cheer on my teammates and continue to work on myself to get better, so when I'm able to come back, I can just fit in and continue the way we were playing."

Before he went down with the injury, Anderson was the National Hockey League leader in games played (56), shots faced (1,692) and saves (1,544). Even though he hasn't seen any action in more than a week, he still remains in the top two or three in all three categories. If there's any benefit to the mishap, it's that he's getting some rest before the stretch drive to the playoffs.

"You'd like to play," admitted Anderson, who had allowed a mere four goals in his last four outings before the injury (all of them wins). "You want to be involved and be a part of the team and be that guy that they count on. Right now, the only thing I can do is take the mental break and make sure that mentally, I'm ready to go when I come back.

"I've got to get geared up for it. I've got to get mentally back to where I was before the injury happened."

Around the boards

Another week, another honour for Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson, who's been named the NHL's second star for February. During the month, he produced 18 points (7-11) and a +8 rating in helping Ottawa post a 7-3-2 record. Karlsson is currently riding an eight-game point streak that includes three game-winning goals ... Former Senators goaltender Ray Emery will make the start for the Blackhawks on Friday ... More than 4,000 school kids were in the stands at Scotiabank Place this morning as part of the third annual Faceoff Fieldtrip, which combined an opportunity to learn science through hockey with a chance to watch the Senators practice.

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