BUFFALO – Nine months ago, as Craig Anderson’s 40th birthday approached, it appeared his long career could be over. Eventually, the veteran goalie parlayed a tryout with the Washington Capitals into a one-year contract.
Still, Anderson was their third netminder, spending most of the season on the taxi squad and playing just six games, including two playoff appearances.
Tonight, Anderson will be the Sabres’ opening night starter against the Montreal Canadiens, a remarkable late-career achievement for the 19-year veteran.
“You wouldn’t know his age,” Sabres coach Don Granato said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “He’s competing like a young guy and to stay in this league, you have to have that kind of rookie mentality every year. That’s what keeps you alive and going.
“He came in here probably unsatisfied with last season. He probably was hungrier for more and that’s what I see in him, is the way he carries himself. He’s still a hungry guy and wants to do and accomplish more.”
Anderson said the ups and downs he experienced early in his career – he played for three teams, bounced around on waivers and between the NHL and minors – helped him figure out the work ethic he needed to stick in the big leagues.
“It’s one thing to get there when you’re a young guy, whether you’re a high draft pick or not, you get an opportunity,” Anderson said Wednesday. “If you’re a high draft pick, maybe you get two or three opportunities. It’s how do you make the most of the opportunity?
“I was fortunate enough, I had my opportunity, I faltered, and I had to learn. I had to go back to the minors.”
Anderson, having spent much of his career with the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division, has faced the Canadiens 31 times over his career, compiling a 13-14-3 record with a 3.14 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.
Goalie Samuel Montembeault, a backup the Canadiens recently claimed off waivers from the Florida Panthers, will oppose Anderson. The Canadiens, a Stanley Cup finalist last season, lost to the Maple Leafs 2-1 Wednesday in Toronto.
Here is the rest of tonight’s lineup.
Forwards (from left to right):
Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt and Vinnie Hinostroza
Rasmus Asplund, Tage Thompson and Victor Olofsson
Anders Bjork, Dylan Cozens and Drake Caggiula
Zemgus Girgensons, Cody Eakin and Kyle Okposo
Defense (from left to right):
Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju
Jacob Bryson and Colin Miller
Robert Hagg and Mark Pysyk
Defenseman Will Butcher and forwards John Hayden and Arttu Ruotsalainen will likely be healthy scratches.