The Ottawa Senators hope to have goaltender Craig Anderson back on the ice for the first time since February when they visit the Buffalo Sabres for Friday's game at First Niagara Center.
Anderson hasn't played since Feb. 21 and the Senators have gone 10-5-4 since their No. 1 goaltender sprained his right ankle on Feb. 21. The 31-year-old Anderson was the league's leading Vezina Trophy candidate when he went down to injury and is 8-4-2 with a 1.49 goals against average and .952 save percentage.
The American goaltender has been practicing with the team this week and he's expected to start in either Friday's game or Sunday's test against Florida. If Anderson is unable to start on Friday then Robin Lehner will get the call.
"It's been a long time here, I've had to watch a lot of hockey," Anderson told Ottawa's official team site on Thursday. "It's about time for me to get that feeling back where I can help the team and feel like I'm accomplishing something."
With Anderson's return imminent, the Senators dealt goaltender Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday for impressive rookie forward Cory Conacher. Bishop filled in nicely during Anderson's absence and went 8-5-0 with a 2.45 GAA in 13 games for Ottawa this season.
The Senators received the 23-year-old Conacher as well as a fourth-round pick for Bishop. The 5-foot-8 Conacher went undrafted as a collegiate player at Canisius, but he recorded nine goals and 15 assists in his first 35 NHL games for Tampa Bay this season. He is second among NHL rookies this season with 24 points, leaving him one point behind Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau.
"I'm excited to meet everyone," said Conacher. "It's going to be a good thing for me and I can't wait to go there and further my career and hopefully have a nice little playoff run this year."
Conacher has joined the team and is expected to play on Friday, when Ottawa plays the second test of its road trip.
The Senators lost their second straight game on Tuesday, dropping a 3-2 regulation decision in Boston. Nathan Horton scored the game-winner in the third period and the Bruins overcame a career-high 47-save effort by Lehner at TD Garden.
Colin Greening and Andre Benoit provided the offense for the Senators, who have dropped two in a row since winning six of seven.
"It was a hard-fought game, but one that we're not used to because it was so much more open," said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson about the 97 combined shots on goal. "We had our opportunities, came close, but their goalie played well."
Ottawa, which is tied for fifth in the East with Toronto, is just 6-8-3 as the visiting team this season. The Sens are making the second stop on a seven-game road trip tonight.
The Sabres, who are tied for 12th in the East and are five points out of a playoff spot, were sellers at this season's trade deadline, dealing defenseman Robyn Regehr and forward Jason Pominville over the last week.
Regehr was dealt to Los Angeles on Monday for the Kings' second-round picks in 2014 and 2015. At Wednesday's deadline, the Sabres sent Pominville and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for goaltender Matt Hackett, forward Johan Larsson, a first-round draft pick in 2013 and a second-round pick in 2014.
The Sabres recorded an impressive win their last time out, as they snapped the Penguins' 15-game winning streak with Tuesday's 4-1 triumph at Pittsburgh's CONSOL Energy Center.
Kevin Porter notched his first two goals of the season to help back a 19-save effort from Ryan Miller that helped deal Pittsburgh its first setback since a 4-1 ousting by Carolina on Feb. 28.
Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson also potted goals for a Buffalo squad that had lost its previous four games.
"Hopefully this is something we carry forward," Miller said of the win.
Beginning with tonight's contest, Buffalo will play two straight and five of its next six on home ice. The Sabres are 6-7-3 as the host this season.
Ottawa has won all three meetings against the Sabres this season and can sweep the season series on Friday. The Sens have won six of seven overall in this series and three straight in Buffalo.