Craig Anderson

How many starts does the Hamburglar have left?

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Andrew Hammond’s run as Ottawa’s No. 1 could soon be coming to a close.

While this sounds a tad reactionary in the wake of Hammond’s first — and only — regulation loss of the season, consider the following:

• Hammond looked shaky in Thursday’s 5-1 defeat to the Rangers, most notably on this Chris Kreider tally late in the first period. But rather than chalk it up to a stinker performance — the ‘burglar was due for one, after all — the party line afterward was that Hammond’s playing hurt, reportedly still feeling the effects of a collision with San Jose’s Logan Couture from Monday night.

Hammond suggested he’s not 100 percent, with Sens head coach Dave Cameron adding he’s “beat up a little bit.” Today, Hammond didn’t take part in Ottawa’s optional skate and was seen limping out of the rink. This could be a legit injury, or it could be general wear and tear; it’s important to remember that, for all his heroics, Hammond has never played more than 48 games in a single season and the weight of his recent workload — 17 games in 38 days — has been heightened by the pressure of Ottawa’s playoff push.

• Craig Anderson (hand) is pretty much ready to go. On Thursday, Cameron told the Ottawa Sun that if Anderson was able to take shots off his blocker, “that’s a good sign. There was talk that he might be able to [back up] if he took some shots off the blocker.”

And guess what Anderson did on Friday?

There was some thought that Anderson could be eased back into the lineup by serving as Hammond’s No. 2 for Saturday’s game in Toronto. Now, though, it seems as though Andy could be the No. 1 this weekend, with the Hamburglar backing up.

• From there, things would get interesting. After the Leafs tilt, Ottawa has eight games remaining; Anderson would obviously need a lot of work to get back into game shape, given he’s only made two appearances over the last two months. It’s important to remember that, before the Hamburglar took off, Anderson was enjoying a pretty successful season himself, going 14-12-7 with a 2.44 GAA, .925 save percentage and three shutouts.

Anderson also has a decided advantage over Hammond with regards to playoff experience — 23 games to zero — and in his last postseason appearance (2013), Anderson allowed just nine goals on 180 shots, good for a .950 save percentage, in an opening-round victory over Montreal.

• Finally, it’s worth noting that Dave Cameron has gone with Anderson in big spots before. Two weeks ago he said it was Anderson, not Hammond, that gave Ottawa the best chance to win for a crucial tilt against Boston.

Senators rally in third to beat Sharks, surpass Bruins in Wild Card race

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Back in mid-February, Ottawa required nothing short of a miraculous run to get back into the playoff race. Enter 27-year-old rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond. He’s reversed the course of the team to the point where they are actually in possession of a Wild Card spot after earning a 5-2 victory against San Jose Monday night.

San Jose’s Joe Pavelski and Chris Tierney did managed to score just 30 seconds apart in the second period, but that’s all Hammond allowed in his 29-save effort. Ottawa did the rest courtesy of a third period rally with Senators forwards Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan leading the charge.

Zibanejad netted Ottawa’s first two goals of the game while Ryan was credited with three assists, including the 200th of his career.

Starting with Hammond’s first start on Feb. 18, the Senators have gone on a 15-1-1 run. The sole regulation loss came during one of Craig Anderson’s two starts during that stretch. Coupled with the Bruins dropping five straight games, Ottawa now has a one-point edge over Boston in the battle for the second Wild Card seed. On top of that the Senators have played in one less game.

The stakes will be very high for the Bruins on Thursday when they take on the Anaheim Ducks.

For the Senators, as big as tonight was, there might also be a somber note to it. Although Hammond played the full 60 minutes, he suffered an ankle injury that required treatment after the contest, per the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch. Zibanejad also blocked a shot with his arm but said he’s okay.

Senators lose Michalek, Puempel; Anderson nears return

The Ottawa Senators are going into tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks with an opportunity to move ahead of Boston in the Wild Card race after the Bruins dropped their fifth straight on Sunday, but they won’t have all hands on deck.

Ottawa lost 22-year-old forward Matt Puempel to a high-ankle sprain that’s expected to cost him four-to-six weeks, per TSN’s Steve Lloyd. In other words, he is done for the regular season, but might still play for the Senators in the playoffs if they get that far. Puempel made his NHL debut on Feb. 21 and has gone on to score two goals and three points in 13 contests.

While Puempel was used sparingly, forward Milan Michalek has been averaging 17:46 minutes per game since the All-Star break and will also be unavailable on Monday. It’s not clear how long Michalek will be sidelined for, but he’s being held out due to headaches, so that’s obviously concerning.

Meanwhile, goaltender Craig Anderson (hand) is hoping to be ready to serve as the Senators’ backup at some point this weekend. A player getting healthy is never a bad thing, but his availability might worry some Senators fans that feel their best chance to make the playoffs is by riding 27-year-old rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond. While Hammond does have a 1.65 GAA and .947 save percentage in 15 games, it was just a couple weeks ago Senators coach Dave Cameron offered a strong endorsement of Anderson.

Would Cameron go back to Anderson if he had the option? It sounds like we’ll find out soon.

In the meantime, Ottawa has some important games to play without Puempel and Michalek.

Related:

Surging Sens proving importance of youth

After sitting last time, Hamburglar gets his shot at B’s

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Last Tuesday, the Ottawa Senators sat red-hot Andrew Hammond in favor of Craig Anderson for a crucial tilt against the Boston Bruins — and lost, 3-1.

Tonight, it’s Hamburglar time.

Ottawa’s season may very well be on the line when it hosts the B’s at the Canadian Tire Centre, and it’ll be Hammond — who’s 11-0-1 in his last 12 starts — with the chance to draw his team within two points of the Bruins in the wild card race.

This is not an insignificant development. Prior to the aforementioned Boston tilt, Sens head coach Dave Cameron said it was Anderson, not Hammond, that gave Ottawa the best chance to win, even though Anderson had missed significant time with a lingering hand injury and had only one game back (a wild 5-4 shootout win over Calgary, in which Ottawa blew a 4-0 third-period lead.)

Cameron also made this pronouncement with Hammond in the midst of a historic hot streak, one the NHL hasn’t seen in a while — in Tuesday’s 2-1 OT win over Carolina, the Hamburglar tied Frank Brimsek’s 77-year-old record by allowing two goals or less in his first 12 big league starts.

This week, Sens GM Bryan Murray tried to put Hammond’s streak into further context.

From the CP:

Murray has seen a couple of goalies on streaks similar to the brilliant run the “Hamburglar” is on: John Vanbiesbrouck and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Vanbiesbrouck carried the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup final in 1996, and Giguere got the Anaheim Mighty Ducks one victory from the Cup in 2003.

“I remember Vanbiesbrouck, we would go into Pittsburgh for Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals and they had Ronny Francis and Mario Lemieux and (Jaromir) Jagr — all the big stars — and he wouldn’t let anything in,” Murray said Wednesday at the NHL general managers meeting. “In Anaheim when J-S played, we went into Detroit, they got 50-some shots the first night, 40-some the second night and we win both games and we win four straight.

“It was only because of goaltending.”

Not to harp on this, but remember: Cameron sat Hammond in the midst of this streak, in a huge game for playoff survival. Just a stunning decision, in retrospect.

But retrospect is the key word there. The Sens refused to crumble following that loss to Boston and today, it seems everybody — the head coach included — now knows Hammond gives them the best chance of winning.

“He’s just been awesome,” Cameron said.

More Sens goalie drama as Anderson re-injures hand

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The Hamburglar just got a little more job security.

On Tuesday, Ottawa announced that Craig Anderson has re-aggravated his hand injury and Chris Driedger has been recalled from ECHL Evansville on an emergency basis.

The transaction means that Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond will start once again for the Sens in Carolina tonight and, barring a dramatic turn of events, won’t be leaving the Ottawa crease anytime soon.

It’s an interesting development, to say the least.

Anderson, who missed all of February dealing with his hand injury, returned briefly to the Ottawa net in mid-March while Hammond was in the midst of his incredible hot streak (he’s 10-0-1 heading into tonight’s play.)

Anderson started two games, including a crucial tilt against Boston on Mar. 10 — one the Sens needed to get back into playoff contention. Per head coach Dave Cameron, Anderson gave Ottawa “the best chance to win,” even though Hammond had been virtually unbeatable.

The Sens lost that game, 3-1, and Anderson hasn’t played since.

Ottawa will be a team to watch down the stretch, especially this week. The Sens head into tonight’s action just five points back of Boston with a game in hand, and will take on the Bruins at home on Thursday in a massive game for their postseason chances.