knew that, sooner or later, this day just had to come.
The inevitable moment when he'd stand between the pipes for the Ottawa Senators and stare down the ice at one of his former National Hockey League teams. It finally will arrive Thursday night, when the Sens face the Florida Panthers at the National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, Fla. (7:30 p.m., NHL Network, Team 1200).
As luck would have it, the Panthers happen to be the team that drafted Auld in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Mind you, it wasn't until the 2006-07 season that he suited up in Florida colours – he was traded by the Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks at the 2001 draft – and there have been stints with the Phoenix Coyotes and Boston Bruins since then.
Though the Senators have faced the Panthers, Coyotes and Bruins this season, Martin Gerber made the start in all three of those games at Scotiabank Place. But coming off a strong effort in Monday's 5-2 triumph in Buffalo, Auld will make his fourth straight start Thursday night.
"It's one of those things where every game is important and you can't get too focused on the personal side of things, because then your head is not in the right place," Auld said of the opportunity to face his original NHL team as a Senator for the first time. "I'm just going to prepare like it's any game and be ready to go."
Auld saw 27 games of action with the Panthers two seasons ago before an injury cut his season short. But he said it's a year that helped improve his mindset about the game.
"I grew a lot as a person," he said. "I didn't play a lot of games and I had season-ending surgery but I learned a lot about how to act and how to be professional about the game. I learned a lot of things and have taken that on in my career and moved forward with it."
Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg has been more than pleased with Auld's play as Gerber mends from a pulled leg muscle suffered last week in practice.
"We like the games (Auld) has played," said Hartsburg. "We feel very confident with him in the net and I think the players feel very confident with him in the net. He just has to continue to play the game he's played. He's making saves but his body language and the way he handles himself in the net with poise is (something that) is very important to our team right now."
Gerber, meanwhile, took part in practice with the team today and has been elevated to backup status for Thursday's game against the Panthers. Brian Elliott has been returned to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League.
"(The leg) feels good, so we're going to talk to the trainers and go from there," Gerber said after today's workout. "It was a little weak on one side but the pain is gone and that's the main thing. As long as you can do everything possible (on the ice), that's what is important." Around the boards
Auld is 1-0-2 against the Panthers with a 1.20 goals-against average in his NHL career. Against his other former teams, Auld is 3-0-0 vs. Boston and 1-1-0 vs. Phoenix. He's never faced the Canucks ... The Senators close out their four-game road trip on Saturday night in Tampa against the Lightning. There is no available television broadcast of the game, but you can listen to it on Team 1200 radio.