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Sens stopper anxious to begin carving his new path

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
NEW YORK — His immediate future now secure, Craig Anderson is itching to start giving the Ottawa Senators more of what they've seen — and liked — so far.

The 29-year-old goaltender has yet to see action between the pipes since signing a four-year contact with the Senators on Monday. But Anderson, who's been nursing a lower-body injury for about a week, is confident that will change Thursday night, when Ottawa faces off against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).

"It’s feeling pretty good," Anderson said after the Senators hit the ice earlier today at Chelsea Piers, a Manhattan facility that rests hard on the bank of the famed Hudson River. "Hopefully, I can get back in there tomorrow and get back on track."

With the Senators sitting in the Eastern Conference basement, there was no urgency to rush Anderson back into action — especially since they've made it clear he'll be a vital part of the building process in the years to come.

"At the end of the day, there wasn’t any reason to push it and risk making anything worse," said the native of Park Ridge, Ill. "For me, it was just a matter of making sure it was continuing to get better. I thought after a couple of days there, after the Florida and Tampa games, I thought maybe it had calmed down a little bit. It was feeling a little better but it was still pretty sore, so I didn’t want to keep the chain going. I wanted to break that chain and make sure it was 100 per cent before I went back in there again."

The time off has also given Anderson a chance to reflect on the whirlwind that's engulfed him in the last five weeks. Apparently headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, Anderson was dealt to the Senators on Feb. 18 in an exchange of goaltenders with the Colorado Avalanche, who received Brian Ellott in return.

It took him only a month to convince the Senators to hand him the starting job, and for Anderson to be sold on settling down in Ottawa with his wife Nicole and their first child, which they are expecting in July. Since joining the Senators, he's 6-4-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

"The whole knowing about where you’re going to be playing is a definitely a huge weight off your chest," Anderson said about the security he now feels in Ottawa. "There are a lot of times where the unknown is kind of scary. To get that out of the way and now to have pieces in place ... I can start to make plans with my wife and my family. Just knowing exactly what the road is (in the near future) definitely makes life easier."

While some suggest the pressure on Anderson will be ratcheted up now that he's playing in a Canadian market, he merely sees it as something that goes along with the position he plays.

"Goaltenders are in a tough spot," he said. "You’re always looked upon. The red light goes on when you make a mistake, whereas if a forward makes a mistake, someone might not pick up on it. When things are good, things are good. But if things start to go south ... there’s some very knowledgeable hockey people here and they want a winning team.

"The first guy they look to is the goalie, to do what Cam Ward did (last night), to steal a win."

Anderson wasn't in goal for the Senators' 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at the RBC Center. But Ottawa continues to receive steady play from Curtis McElhinney (3-2-0, 2.14 GAA, .932) in his absence.

"He’s played well," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of McElhinney. "You ask him to play three in a row or four in a row ... that’s not his role, that’s not his job. He did an excellent job. Both of the Tampa Bay games, he was one of the reasons that we won. We can’t ask a whole lot more from him."

Anderson, however, wants to show a whole lot more to the Senators and their fans starting Thursday in the building known as "the world's most famous arena."

"A lot of stars have come through that building," said Anderson. "Just walking down the hallway and looking at the pictures of who’s performed there and who’s played there, it definitely makes you pick up your game a little bit ... If you can’t get up for a game in that building, you shouldn’t be playing this game."

Around the boards

Also hopeful to be in action Thursday against the Blueshirts is forward Milan Michalek, who is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken foot. "He wasn’t supposed to be (back yet)," said Clouston. "If he was, it was supposed to be for the last couple of games. He’s a big part of our team. He was playing very well, probably his best hockey of the year just before he got hurt. He’s excited to get back in the next couple of games" ... Taking "maintenance" days off practice were centre Jason Spezza, forward Marek Svatos and defenceman Erik Karlsson, who saw more than 28 minutes of ice time against the Hurricanes. All are expected to be in the lineup Thursday ... Defenceman Patrick Wiercioch's parents couldn't make their way to Raleigh for their son's National Hockey League debut on Tuesday night. But they're en route to the Big Apple today and will be on hand at MSG on Thursday ... The Senators return home to face the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place on Friday night (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). 

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