Craig Anderson’s nine-day layoff has mainly been due to a break in the Ottawa Senators’ schedule following the tragedies that occurred in Canada, but his return to the ice will come in some familiar surroundings.
The Chicago-area native looks to help Ottawa deal the Blackhawks a third consecutive defeat Sunday night at the United Center.
Anderson made 31 saves in a 5-3 victory over Colorado on Oct. 16 to improve to 2-1-0 with a 2.01 goals against-average in a solid start to his season. Backup Robin Lehner got the nod two days later in a 3-2 victory over Columbus before Wednesday’s home game against Toronto was postponed due to the shooting death of a Canadian soldier in Ottawa.
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The Senators (4-1-1) paid tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed in a hit-and-run attack Monday near Montreal, prior to Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey that ended a four-game winning streak.
Lehner made 26 saves for Ottawa, which received goals from Alex Chiasson and Bobby Ryan.
”You can’t fault the effort, it was there,” Ryan said. ”I thought we took over the game in the third for a bit and for large portions of it.”
After a week of, coach Paul MacLean attempted to create a spark with a different lineup.
"I kind of moved everybody around to get a three-line rotation with one that I would sink in there and see if we could get a little bit of pace," MacLean said. "It was just a matter of trying to see what we could get going."
Anderson, a third-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2001 who spent parts of three seasons with his hometown club, is 5-1-2 with a 3.38 GAA in his career against his former team.
Chicago (4-2-1) hopes a return home will provide an advantage after losing 3-2 at Nashville on Thursday before falling by the same score at St. Louis on Saturday. Patrick Sharp scored on a 5-on-3 power play 1:02 into the contest against the Blues, but the Blackhawks allowed the next three goals – two in the final two minutes of the second period – before Kris Versteeg’s third-period tally.
"We’ve been giving up some late goals in periods, making turnovers in the middle of the ice that result in them scoring," Quenneville said. "Their (third) goal was hard to watch."
Chicago began the season 4-0-1, but consecutive losses has put a damper on that solid start.
"I think there’s a lot more potential," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "There are so many good teams in this league and no easy games. We just have to find some consistency and not give up too many scoring chances."
The Blackhawks are 3-0-1 at the United Center, but they’ll be inexperienced in net for the contest as rookie Scott Darling – also a Chicago-area native – makes his NHL debut. Antti Raanta has started the last three as Corey Crawford nurses an upper-body injury.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford skated Saturday but won’t be ready until at least Tuesday’s contest against Anaheim. Dan Carcillo suffered an injury against the Blues and Quenneville said he could be out for "a little more than a week or two."
"Injuries are all a part of it," Quenneville said. "Things happen and the next guy’s got to take advantage of it."
Jonathan Toews had a hat trick and Andrew Shaw scored twice as the Blackhawks beat the Senators 6-5 in last season’s only meeting in Chicago.
Ottawa has lost five straight at the United Center since a 5-2 victory March 28, 2001.