PHILADELPHIA — Craig Anderson is unbeatable since returning from his sprained right ankle.
“I wanted to get in there and see if I still had it and I stopped all seven shots I saw,” the Ottawa Senators’ No. 1 goaltender said, with a laugh, after making a brief appearance at the club’s practice here Friday.
“I can skate. I can stop. I can push. I can do a lot of things that a forward can do. I haven’t taken a step yet to see what a goalie can do, but I think that’s going to be the next step. I will just see how it is (Saturday) and see if I can get into the butterfly at all.”
Anderson, who still leads the NHL with a save percentage of .952, says his recovery from the sprained right ankle he suffered Feb. 22 has been “outstanding.” He says there’s no set timetable for when he could return, but he has had no setbacks.
“Every day, it seems to be getting a lot better and I’m trying to do everything I can to get back,” he said.
“Nothing has been set in stone yet. We just kind of take it day by day. Every day I can do more and more out there.”
Anderson is in great spirits, in large part because he feels less pressure to return early due to the spectacular play of fellow Senators goaltenders Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner. Bishop stopped 44 shots in Monday’s 2-1 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens. Lehner stopped 44 shots in Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins.
“It makes my rehab that much easier, knowing I can just take my time and really focus on getting myself 100 per cent,” he said. “I don’t think anybody would have expected it, these guys have come in and done a terrific job of stopping 40-plus shots in back-to-back games here, so credit to them for stepping in and filling the role.”
While the serving in the role of spectator/cheerleader for the time being, Anderson acknowledges that the shot clock can be deceiving at times. He says the measure of a top netminder is not always about the number of shots he faces — many come from long-range — but rather about the crucial stops he makes.
“Right now, we’re giving up a lot of shots, but (Bishop) and (Lehner) are coming in and making those three to four big saves we need,” he said. “A better statistic would probably be to look at those game saving stops or looking at scoring chances, as opposed to overall shots.”
While it’s unclear when Anderson will be back, he will return sooner than what many fans expected when he first suffered the injury. After Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers slid through the crease and knocked Anderson down, he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg. The team’s trainers helped him off the ice.
Anderson has seen the video. He knows it looked worse than it was.
“You never know until you get off (the ice) and the doctors take a look and see exactly what’s wrong,” he said..”When I went to get up and kind of fell back down, the ankle was still kind of numb and I didn’t really have a whole lot of feeling in it. It was just a weird feeling. I never had that before. I didn’t want to stand up on it and say ‘everything is fine’ and (do more damage). By the time I went home, I felt a lot better.”
O’BRIEN TAKES OVER THE SCORING LEAD: What’s more surprising? The fact Jim O’Brien scored a power play goal Thursday or the fact he leads all active Senators in goals? O’Brien’s fifth of the year against Boston put him ahead of Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson for the lead among the team’s forwards (injured defenceman Erik Karlsson has six goals). Not bad for a defensive centre/winger who scored only three goals in his first 34 NHL games before this season. “We’ve had so many injuries, I don’t think anyone envisioned year being like this,” said O’Brien. “I’m always looking for offence, looking for chances. It’s another year of being comfortable. Last year, I was getting my feet wet.”
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Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson is helped off the ice by teammates Chris Phillips, 4, and Marc Methot, 3, after being taken down by New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider, not shown, during third period NHL action in Ottawa on Thursday February 21, 2013.
Photograph by: Adrian Wyld, THE CANADIAN PRESS