Some might suggest it's one of the toughest jobs in hockey.
Patience is indeed a virtue for a backup goaltender, especially if you're stuck behind one of the workhorse stoppers who garner the vast majority of the action — and yes, the headlines, too — throughout the National Hockey League.
But they must always stand at the ready, never knowing when the call to join the battle might come.
Just ask Alex Auld, whose season to date with the Ottawa Senators had consisted of less than eight total periods of action until Sunday. But when starter Craig Anderson came down with a stiff neck just hours before the Senators were slated to face off against the Vancouver Canucks, Auld got the tap on the shoulder to fill the void.
The 30-year-old native of Cold Lake, Alta., responded extremely well, turning aside 25 of 27 shots he faced in a 2-1 overtime loss to the defending Western Conference champions. Veteran of the backup role that he is, Auld took the last-minute call in stride and gave the Senators a chance to win with a steady effort.
"I felt like I was seeing (the puck) really well except the last goal," Auld said following the game, which was decided when Chris Higgins tipped home Dan Hamhuis' point shot in OT. "I felt good."
Added Senators head coach Paul MacLean: "I thought Alex was solid tonight. I don't think we gave him a whole lot of extra work to do, but he was there and he was big and made the saves he had to make. We're very pleased with how he played."
Outside of a relief effort in Buffalo on Nov. 11, it was the first action Auld had seen in more than a month. But he knew it would be part of the territory, given his previous season in Montreal, where he saw just 16 games of duty behind Canadiens starter Carey Price.
"The last couple of weeks have been about trying to work on my game, getting back to basics and making sure I'm staying patient," said Auld, who was inked to a one-year contract by the Senators to provide a support role for Anderson. "It's tough sometimes when you don't play a lot, but that's kind of what I've been focusing on.
"It definitely served me well (last) night ... I was able to track the puck and I was able to move. For the most part, I was reading the sticks well."
That Auld found himself playing at Rogers Arena (formerly General Motors Place) offered a certain level of comfort as well. The Canucks gave the 6-4, 215-pound netminder his best NHL shot to date, handing him their starting role for the 2005-06 season. It is a time he still looks back upon with fondness.
"There are a lot of fond memories here," he said. "I've always enjoyed playing here and, believe it or not, it (was) only my second time playing here not for the Canucks. It's pretty special every time I come back here. A win would have been great, but we've got to look at the bigger picture.
"As a team, we played the way we wanted to play, we kept patient and we were able to create a lot of chances, but their goalie (Corey Schneider, also a backup) played really well. We were just one (goal) short."
Stone earns second WHL player of week honour
For the second time this season, Senators prospect Mark Stone has been named the Western Hockey League's player of the week. In three games for the Brandon Wheat Kings, Stone racked up three goals and five assists while posting a plus-4 rating. In addition, the 19-year-old forward was named player of the game for the WHL in its Subway Super Series game against Russia in Moose Jaw, Sask.
A sixth-round pick (178th overall) by the Senators in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Stone currently leads all Canadian Hockey League scorers with 54 points (22-32) in just 23 games. He is a prime candidate to represent Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, which begins Dec. 26 in Calgary and Edmonton.
Around the boards
After a long flight through the night from the west coast, the Senators had today off. They'll return to the practice ice on Tuesday and begin preparations for Friday's matchup against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in Pittsburgh (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) ... Don't forget to throw your support behind captain Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar in voting to select the rosters for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, which is set for Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place. You can fill out a ballot online at vote.nhl.com, or text a player's last name to 81812. Voting closes on Jan. 4.