Auld and Lehner to battle for control of Ottawa’s net

There’s a standard line in professional sports that one player’s injury is another’s opportunity.

Auld and Lehner to battle for control of Ottawa’s net
Matt Puempel. (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

There’s a standard line in professional sports that one player’s injury is another’s opportunity.

The most notable example, of course, being Lou Gehrig, who didn’t leave the lineup for 14 years after getting his chance when Wally Pipp complained of a headache.

It’s unlikely that Alex Auld or Robin Lehner will be able to push Craig Anderson aside so decisively, but Anderson’s injury does give them both the opportunity they’ve been seeking.

Auld, signed to be Anderson’s backup, wants to show he is every bit as capable as any other NHL goaltender, not just someone to be a target in practice, while Lehner, in the midst of a miserable year in Binghamton, wants to show that he is ready to play in the NHL.

Auld will get the first chance. He’ll be in net tonight against the Boston Bruins.

After that game, said coach Paul MacLean, he’ll evaluate Auld’s performance and decide who will start on Sunday against the New York Islanders.

Not surprisingly, Auld, who has appeared in just 13 games (2-3-2, 3.28. .883) this season, was looking forward to the opportunity.

“Craig’s a huge part of our team and it’s a tough loss, but we’ve got a capable group, we’re playing good hockey, and we just have to keep that going,” he said.

“I’ve maintained all year that I just want to stay sharp and stay ready for an opportunity, and I have one here in front of me.

“So I just want to make sure I keep the same focus I’ve had and play the same way I’ve played lately. Just play a simple game and not try to be something I’m not.”

With the Senators riding a four-game winning streak, and comfortably in seventh in the Eastern Conference, Auld was asked if the pressure is any greater. He said no.

“Being a goalie in the NHL has a level of pressure already, I guess,” he said.

“I think it’s a great situation for me. I’m going to get the opportunity to play, and obviously I’m going to play with a great team.”

While Auld’s numbers haven’t been great, neither have Lehner’s.

He is 8-16-1 with a 3.38 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

He appeared in one game for the Senators this season, beating the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Oct. 30.

General manager Bryan Murray had the sense that Lehner was miffed at the end of training camp when he was sent to Binghamton, disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to be the backup here, and that affected his play.

But Lehner maintains that he didn’t take a bad attitude with him (it was actually always the plan that he would be the No. 1 goalie in Binghamton and play a lot of games).

“You always push to try to get a spot up here,” he said. “That’s everyone’s goal.

“Everyone who plays in the AHL, that’s what their goal is, to play here. And when I got cut, if I didn’t get disappointed, then I’m going to be there for my whole life.

“I can’t be satisfied being in the AHL. Like, I’m never going to be satisfied with that.”

After winning the Calder Cup last year, the Binghamton Senators are the worst team in the AHL this season after 53 games (22-29-2-1).

Lehner said that’s part of the reason for his poor season, but he acknowledged that he has to take his share of responsibility for not playing well.

“I think it’s a reflection of all of us,” he said.

“They’re my stats, too, and I have to take ownership of them.

“It’s been a tough season for all of us down there. Obviously it hasn’t been what we wanted it to be. We were a young team and we got some injuries. It’s the way it is.”

Murray said he’ll watch his team in its two games today and Sunday before deciding to do anything before Monday’s trade deadline. But he suggested he might look at acquiring a goalie who could play in Binghamton and be recalled to Ottawa if there’s another injury.

“I hear (about) all the other teams that are trying to get goaltenders, so I’m not sure of the approach right now,” he said. “I want to see us play.

“We’ve got a couple of games before (the trade deadline). So let me watch.

“We’ve got two guys who are definitely very capable. We just don’t, maybe after that, have a third guy who would be ready to call up if anything would happen.

“So we’ll wait and see.”

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