Michalek, Anderson on ‘maintenance’; Senators winger, goalie expected to be ready for season opener

A new week of Ottawa Senators training camp arrived Monday without No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson and top left-winger Milan Michalek on the ice.

Is it déjà vu all over again for the team that limped through the lockout shortened 2013 National Hockey League season with injury upon injury, including significant setbacks to Anderson and Michalek?

Not according to Senators coach Paul MacLean, who labelled the absences “maintenance days” and said there was “no anticipation of any further delays.”

Michalek has said throughout camp that he feels great. After avoiding surgery and undergoing a non-traditional procedure on his troublesome knee in Germany during the summer — blood was withdrawn, blood protein was separated and then re-injected along with a serum — he has played on a line with centre Jason Spezza and right-winger Bobby Ryan since camp opened.

Mika Zibanejad took Michalek’s spot Monday.

Michalek is not expected to travel to Toronto for Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Maple Leafs, and the Senators are taking no chances, doing everything possible to make sure Michalek is ready for the season opener Oct. 4 in Buffalo.
Anderson has acknowledged he’s not completely recovered after spraining his right ankle last February and is also trying not to push too hard too soon. So far he has only played two periods in the pre-season, the first two during last Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs.

Anderson won’t be going to Toronto for Tuesday’s game. Robin Lehner is expected to play the full game in net.
Lehner says he’s gradually finding his rhythm in the net, “seeing the plays again,” but he understands that he’s playing behind one of the NHL’s elite netminders and must fight hard for as much playing time as possible.

“You can’t hide that, but, of course, you want to try,” Lehner said. “The reality is (Anderson) is a very, very good goaltender, one of the tops in the league, but that’s the way it works for every goalie in the league.”

While Lehner is serving as Anderson’s understudy, MacLean raised a few eyebrows by giving Zibanejad a chance to fill Michalek’s skates, practising with Spezza and Ryan at even strength and on the power play.

MacLean says he liked what he saw.

You can excuse Zibanejad if his head is spinning just a little bit, wondering where he’ll end up next. Last Thursday against Toronto, he played centre with Colin Greening and Chris Neil as wingers. On the weekend, he spent time on right wing, one of the many players who have been tested beside left-winger Clarke MacArthur and centre Kyle Turris. Then came Monday’s experience.

“It’s pre-season and that’s what training camp is for: to see different combinations and to try out different stuff,” Zibanejad said. “I think it’s good for me to kind of jump around and see.”

So, where might he end up next?

“I don’t know,” he said. “Who haven’t I played with yet?”

Zibanejad isn’t expected to play in Toronto.

The most intriguing combination expected to face the Maple Leafs figures to be a line of MacArthur, Turris and Mark Stone, the latest candidate to audition for the opening as second-line right-winger. Cory Conacher and Mike Hoffman are also in the mix.

“All four of the guys (including Zibanejad in that group) bring a different dimension to the game,” MacLean said. “Hoffman brings the dimension of speed and is somebody who can really shoot the puck, Conacher has tenacity and skill with the puck, Mark Stone has size and good hands down around the net, but maybe not as good a skater. Mika brings power and speed and a big shot.”

The Senators still have time and lots of pre-season game action left before they must decide who’s the best fit. After Tuesday, they have a home-and-away series against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday and Thursday. The Senators will conclude the exhibition schedule Sunday with split-squad games against the New York Islanders: one contest at Canadian Tire Centre, one in Barrie.

“At some point, we have to decide on one guy,” MacLean said. “But that point isn’t going to be until the end of camp.”

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com
Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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