Midway through practice Friday at the Bell Sensplex, Alex Auld headed to the bench to get medical attention after taking a shot off his blocker hand.
While former Senators goalie-turned-RDS broadcaster Patrick Lalime was ready, willing and able to sign with GM Bryan Murray, it wasn’t necessary because Auld returned and will start Saturday against the Boston Bruins at home.
While prospect Robin Lehner has been recalled from the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton, Auld is going to be given the first shot to carry the ball. If he falters, Lehner will get a chance.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Auld, who has played in only three of the club’s last 24 games. “I’ve maintained all year I just want to stay sharp and stay ready for an opportunity and I have one in front me.
“I just want to make sure I have the same focus and make sure I play the same way I’ve played lately. Just try to play a simple game and try to make sure I don’t try to be something that I’m not.”
The Senators are in a good position to make the playoffs with 20 games left, but they need to play at least .500 hockey to lock up a spot. Auld, who has a 2-3-2 record with a 3.28 GAA and .883 save-percentage, said he’s ready.
“It’s my role. That’s why I’m here,” Auld said. “Craig is a huge part of our team and it’s a tough loss, but I think we have a capable group and we’re playing good hockey. We’ve just got to keep that going.
“I look at it as an opportunity, I don’t look at it as pressure. Being a goalie in the NHL has its level of pressure already, I guess. It’s a great situation for me. I’m going to get the opportunity to play and to play with a great team.”
Many would like to see Lehner get the chance to take the ball and run with it. He may play Sunday against the Isles, but that decision won’t be made until after coach Paul MacLean gets to see how Auld performs.
“It’s an opportunity for other people to step up and play,” said MacLean. “We’re going to evaluate who we’re playing and, based on that, who gives us the best opportunity to win. Just like we’ve done since Day 1.”
Lehner, 20, who has only been so-so in Binghamton this year, is glad to get the call. He has a record of 8-16-1 with a 3.38 GAA and .905 save percentage. He also made 23 stops in a 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on Oct. 30.
“Everybody who plays in the AHL, their goal is to play here,” said Lehner. “If I didn’t get disappointed when I got cut (in training camp), then I’m going to be there for my whole life. I can’t be satisfied being in the AHL.”
He said his numbers are a reflection of the team.
“It’s a reflection of all of us. My stats (as well). I’ve got to take ownership of it. I had a really good percentage for a long time. Then we went on a stretch and the numbers kept falling,” admitted Lehner.
So, once Anderson, injured trying to separate frozen chicken with an ice pick, does return, is he going to get some ribbing from his teammates?
“I don’t think he will,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. “That’s just the way things happen. To me, it sounds better than hurting yourself eating pancakes (like L.A.’s Dustin Penner did earlier this season).
“We’ve all done it. Just maybe not to (the) extent (that Anderson did) of getting injured like that.”