"The Hamburglar" was the primary reason the Ottawa Senators were able to steal a playoff spot last season with one of the best closing runs in NHL history.
Andrew Hammond now sets out to prove he isn't a one-year wonder as the goaltender is scheduled to make his season debut Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Pressed into duty in mid-February after injuries to Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, Anderson took the league by storm as he became only the second goaltender in history to get at least one point in his first 15 starts, going 14-0-1. The man with the McDonald's character on his helmet finished with a 20-1-2 mark, backstopping the Senators (3-2-1) to one of the wild-card spots, but he failed to carry over that play into the postseason, giving up seven goals in losing the first two games of their first-round series at Montreal before giving way to Anderson in Ottawa's eventual exit in six games.
Hammond parlayed his stretch run into a three-year, $4 million contract extension with Ottawa, which traded Lehner to Buffalo in the offseason. Hammond, who has never faced the Devils, has yet to play due to a strained groin suffered in the preseason, with Anderson getting five starts and Matthew O'Connor one before he was sent to Binghamton.
"You learn good habits in practice that will translate into the game," Hammond said Wednesday at practice. "That's been my focus since training camp started, making sure I make the most of each practice, and coming back from injury, that's even more important. It's been the case last week that I've had really good practices and I'm happy with how they've gone."
Ottawa has been idle since a 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville on Saturday. The top line of Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone accounted for all the goals, with Hoffman getting a pair, and the trio have combined for nine goals and 14 assists thus far.
Stone, Turris and two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson share the team lead with eight points, and Karlsson likely will be paired with Mark Borowiecki on the blue line for this game since Marc Methot has been ruled out with a concussion. Forward Clarke MacArthur is also sidelined due to a concussion - the second one he's suffered in eight months - and is sidelined indefinitely.
"The carryover from last year obviously is a big factor and we have to be fair to Clarke and our team in that we allow him to have some time to fully recover and be back in the lineup when he's fully healthy," general manager Bryan Murray said.
New Jersey (2-3-1) has posted back-to-back overtime wins after losing its first four games and is coming off a 3-2 victory over Arizona on Tuesday. Adam Larsson netted the winner 43 seconds into the extra period, finishing a 3-on-1 off a pass from Travis Zajac - who had a goal and two assists for his first points of the season.
''One of the things we didn't have in the first few games was elevated performances by real important guys on our team, guys who are the leaders,'' coach John Hynes said. ''The last three games we have had that.''
The Devils have tightened defensively while getting points from their last three games, yielding five goals after allowing 11 in the first three. Cory Schneider is 3-1-1 with a 1.17 goals-against average in five lifetime starts against the Senators, compiling a .954 save percentage.