Just when it appeared the Ottawa Senators might be forced to test the limits of their organizational goaltending depth, relief may be in sight.
Senators GM Pierre Dorion announced Saturday that goaltender Craig Anderson, who left the team for personal reasons on Thursday, will be returning shortly. It was revealed that Anderson had left the team because his wife was recently diagnosed with cancer. At the insistence of his wife, Anderson will now be rejoining the team.
Ottawa was expected to roll with backup Andrew Hammond and 22-year-old prospect Chris Driedger between the pipes in the interim.
That plan went sideways Friday night when Hammond didn’t return to the ice for the second period of Ottawa’s road game against the Calgary Flames. After Hammond stopped three of four shots faced in the opening frame, Driedger was forced into relief the rest of the way, making 11 saves on 15 shots in the final 40 minutes of the game, which was just his third NHL appearance.
Hammond’s injury is being described only as "lower-body" in nature at this time, with no details on how long he may be out of the lineup as of yet. According to Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch, replays showed Hammond wincing after trying to make a save on a shot that missed the net late in the first period.
After Hammond went down and Driedger took the crease Friday night, Ottawa turned to Todd Ford – a Calgary firefighter – as their emergency backup on standby. As emergency backups go, Ford wasn’t the worst option we’ve ever heard of. The 32-year-old Ford was no slouch in his day – a Toronto Maple Leafs’ third-round pick in 2002 who played eight pro seasons in the AHL, ECHL and in Germany – but he hasn’t played professionally since 2011-12, and fortunately for the Sens, they didn't need to make that change Friday night.
Anticipating both of their regular goaltenders were unavailable, the Senators called up Matt O’Connor from AHL Binghamton. O’Connor, in his second pro season, actually started the first game of 2015-16 for Ottawa, but hasn’t seen NHL action since.
To the credit of their AHL depth, the Senators were in about as good a position as any team could be, considering the circumstances. Both Driedger (0.96 goals-against average, .961 save percentage) and O’Connor (2.35 goals-against average, .919 save percentage) have put up solid numbers with Binghamton so far this season.
The Sens are back in action Sunday when they wrap up a three-game west coast swing against the Edmonton Oilers. Whether Anderson will return to the lineup is expected to be a game-time decision.