Craig Anderson is the number one goalie in Ottawa, and Paul MacLean is making sure no one forgets it.
The Senators coach announced Anderson would be getting the start against the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night despite the fact Robin Lehner has won three straight games and was named the NHL’s first star of the week.
When asked if it was a tough decision to give Anderson the start, MacLean simply answered “not for me.”
“Craig Anderson is the number one goalie and he’s ready to play,” MacLean said. “He’s playing.”
Anderson has missed the last three games due to a stiff neck after a collision with the Dallas Stars’ Valeri Nichushkin November 3, but says he feels fine and is ready to return.
“It’s been about a week so I want to get back in there and get back into some game action,” Anderson said.
Anderson believes coming back when the team is winning might be the best thing after an injury.
“Might be easier to go in as there’s not as much pressure,” he said. “Sometimes when teams aren’t having success maybe you put a bit too much pressure on yourself to do a little extra. Right now it’s keep it simple, team’s playing well and you just have to give the team a chance to win.”
The Senators have won their last three and have points in their last five. Ottawa struggled through much of October going 4-6-4, but finally seem to have gained some momentum.
“The guys have stepped up the last week and we’ve won some hockey games and that’s great,” Anderson said. “It just makes the room more fun to be around and it builds an atmosphere around here that you want to win games and winning is a good feeling.
“It’s good to see everyone enjoying their time right now.”
Lehner’s play last week was instrumental in the Senators putting together a winning streak, but the 22-year-old says he has no issue with Anderson returning to the net.
“As I said before I was filling in, Craig is the starter,” Lehner said. “He’s a world class goalie so there’s not much to say.”
As for being named the week’s first star, Lehner said it’s as much his award as it is the teams.
“I think it’s a good credit to the team too,” said Lehner. “I think we played really good the last three games.”
As a whole, the team has found some much needed confidence with its improved play.
“You start winning a few games and your team game elevates and guys just start rolling and that’s hopefully something we can continue,” said defenceman Marc Methot. “When you lose a couple in a row like we were earlier in the season it gets pretty grim in the dressing room and that’s contagious and you don’t want to be around that atmosphere for very long.”
Senators captain Jason Spezza says confidence can be a tricky thing, and that when you have it you have to learn to make the most of it.
“We’re pretty hard on ourselves, especially when we’re losing and so it’s important you work your way out of it and I think we did that,” said Spezza. “Now we’re doing things better in our game and you hope that when there are blips on the radar that they last a shorter period of time and you kind of make up the mistakes you’re making and find your game back a little bit quicker.”
One of the most noticeable improvements for the Senators has been the play in their own end. After struggling through many games to get the puck out of their zone, the Senators defensive corps seems to be showing signs of playing with authority.
“I think we have chemistry now,” Methot said. “We were juggling lines for quite a while and then you get a win with the certain lines you have out on the ice and we rolled with that and it seems to be working.”
While the Flyers (5-10-1) have had their share of struggles, the Senators know they can ill afford to take them lightly.
“A good start is going to be key,” Spezza said. “They’re still a dangerous team. You look at that lineup and they have some good players and some guys who can make you pay. We know they’re going to be coming in here hungry.”
MacLean echoed Spezza’s thoughts, but says his greatest concern still remains his own team’s play.
“I think our biggest enemy or opponent is ourselves going into the game (Tuesday),” said MacLean. “We expect a difficult game. We’re trying to fight against ourselves, making sure we’re ready to go and again can we come back and play again and play a little bit harder than we played last game and get the same result.”
Notes: RW Eric Condra skated Monday, but until he’s able to take part in practice MacLean says there is no timetable for his return. Condra has missed the last four games with a leg injury.