By Allan Muir
Robin Lehner will get the start tonight for Ottawa against the Buffalo Sabres. If all goes well, it’s the last game he’ll play this year.
Starter Craig Anderson says he has “no hesitation in jumping over the boards and going in,” after lingering on injured reserve since Feb. 21. “If they need me to play, there really [are] no limitations right now for why I couldn’t,” he told the Ottawa Sun.
If he’s healthy, Anderson could run the table for the Sens, who’ll have 11 games to play after tonight.
It would be a heavy workload for a goaltender coming off a serious ankle injury, but there’s a lot on the line. Ottawa is in the thick of the Eastern Conference race, holding down the fifth spot. But with just five points separating the Sens from ninth place, and their next six games coming on the road, there’s no room for a slip. As good as Lehner’s been (2.15 GAA, .940 save percentage), he’s won just three of nine appearances, making Anderson a safer bet.
There’s also the matter of the Vezina Trophy race. Anderson was lights out the first two months of the season, posting a 1.49 GAA and .952 save percentage…but over just 15 starts. That’s the number he needs to bulk up to ensure that voters don’t write him off as a half-season wonder.
After tonight’s game, the Sens are off until Sunday when Anderson is expected to make his return in Sunrise against the Panthers.
Anderson isn’t the only goalie making a return to the lineup this weekend. Reports out of Phoenix suggest that Mike Smith could be back in the lineup tomorrow night. Smith has missed two weeks since being plowed like a beet field by Vancouver’s Alex Edler.
Phoenix is just two points out of eighth in the West, but has won just three of its last 10 games.