Ottawa Senators have more stability in net with return of Anderson and Hammond

Senators finally have options in net

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators will likely ease goaltender Craig Anderson back into the lineup after taking a leave of absence to spend time with his wife as she underwent cancer treatment in New York.

Anderson resumed practising last week but wasn’t at Monday’s session as he was helping his family get settled back home in Ottawa. While the Senators are thrilled to have him back, head coach Guy Boucher doesn’t plan to rush him into game action.

“He’s 100 per cent, he doesn’t have an injury, he could play a game, it’s just we’re trying to get him to his level before we put him in there,” Boucher said. “We could put him in there tomorrow morning and he could play a game, absolutely. It’s not like you’re trying to get a guy back from an injury where it prevents him from doing what he can.

“Right now it’s just a question of stamina and timing.”

Anderson’s wife Nicholle was diagnosed last fall with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a cancer that starts in the upper part of the throat behind the nose and near the base of skull. She underwent treatment at the Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Centre and recently expressed her excitement about returning to the nation’s capital.

“You don’t even know, it feels so good to be back! #helloottawa #happytears,” Nicholle said on Twitter over the weekend.

Anderson’s last appearance came Dec. 5 in an 8-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boucher turned to Mike Condon over the last two months — he has made 27 consecutive appearances — with Anderson away and Andrew Hammond sidelined with a high ankle sprain. 

Hammond was recently cleared to play and served as Condon’s backup on last week’s three-game road trip. Ottawa will kick off a four-game homestand Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues, but Boucher did not announce who would get the start in net. 

“We’ve been wanting to give (Condon) a break for a little while now,” Boucher said. “If we can give him a break (Tuesday) because we feel that either one of the other ones can do that, that’s an option. It doesn’t mean we’re doing that, but we have an option.

“Before that Hammond wasn’t ready and certainly Andy wasn’t ready either and we weren’t going to ask an American Hockey League goalie to have all that pressure to take over and save us. Right now we’re finally at the point where we have options that we’ve been wanting for a long, long time.”

Boucher gave full credit to Condon for his recent play. Ottawa (27-17-6) is second in the Atlantic Division with 60 points and has a 15-9-5 record with the 26-year-old netminder in the lineup.

“If it wasn’t for Condon we’d be in the basement,” said Boucher. “We wouldn’t have had anyone to replace Hammond and Anderson.”

Anderson is expected to resume his starter’s role when he’s ready although it’s possible he could be used as a backup for a game or two to get him back in a routine.

Boucher admitted that had someone told him last summer that he would go through much of the season without his top two goalies, he wouldn’t have held much hope for the season.

“It’s not just about recognizing Condon, it’s also about recognizing what the players have done,” Boucher said. “It’s not you guys, it’s not me, it’s not the staff, it’s the players, who since the start were willing to roll up their sleeves and managed to do things that no one really expected under the circumstances.”

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press

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