The Ottawa Senators are hoping to improve their playoff position down the stretch. The return of Craig Anderson may provide a spark.
Anderson will make his first start in a month Friday night when the visiting Senators face the Montreal Canadiens for the third time in 10 days.
A freak off-ice accident forced Anderson to have surgery on a severed tendon in his right pinky finger Feb. 23, leaving the Senators without their top goaltender.
Anderson had won four straight starts - including two shutouts - before the injury, which prompted Ottawa to acquire Ben Bishop from St. Louis.
Bishop went 3-2-2 with a 1.95 goals-against average while starting the last seven games, posting a solid 33-save performance in a 1-0 loss to New Jersey on Tuesday, but coach Paul MacLean said Anderson would be the starter Friday.
Overall, Ottawa went 5-5-2 with Anderson out.
"(Anderson) is the No. 1 goalie, so we'd like to see him play as many (games) as he can get into," MacLean told the team's official website. "He's looked pretty good (in practice). He's moved well in the net, he's handled the puck efficiently and we feel he's gotten the necessary work in."
Anderson, who is 4-2-0 with a 2.58 GAA in his last six starts versus Montreal, said his goals upon returning are simple.
"I just want to get back in and give the team a chance to win, just like the other guys have done so far," Anderson said. "It's been hard to watch, but the guys have done a great job of filling in and filling the role."
Ottawa (37-27-10) is seventh in the Eastern Conference but 1-2-2 over its last five, leading ninth-place Buffalo by just four points.
Anderson returns in time for yet another meeting with Montreal after the teams split a home-and-home series last Wednesday and Friday. The Canadiens won the first meeting 3-2 at home in a shootout, while the Senators followed suit with a 2-1 overtime win.
Montreal (28-33-13) remains in last place in the East, but its 3-0 loss to the Sabres on Wednesday was its first regulation defeat in seven contests - a 3-1-3 stretch.
"This is just one game that I thought was overall not too bad," coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "It was not all that negative. I thought we did a lot of positive things. But it wasn't sustained enough."
It marked the first time in five games the Canadiens didn't go past regulation. The last three meetings with the Senators have gone past 60 minutes.
Montreal has an eight-game point streak in the series, going 5-0-3 in that stretch, including wins in the first two matchups this season.
The Canadiens are having some offensive troubles, though, totaling three goals in their last three games.
"You've got to do A and B before getting to C, and right now we're struggling to doing the first thing - the simple things - to even get in the offensive zone," forward Lars Eller told the team's official website. "It doesn't matter what the first line does, we should always contribute and score goals. Everybody has to step up a little bit."
Carey Price, who is 5-0-2 with a 1.53 GAA in his last seven starts versus Ottawa, will oppose Anderson in goal.