OTTAWA - There's no denying Andrew Hammond has been instrumental to the Ottawa Senators' surge in the standings this past month. His supporting cast can't be overlooked either.
Ottawa has gone 15-1-1 since Hammond took over in the Senators net on Feb. 18, moving into the second and final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on Monday.
Over that course the 27-year-old rookie has gone 14-0-1 in his first 15 NHL starts. A point Thursday would tie Patrick Lalime's team record for longest start without a regulation loss. Lalime, who was on hand for Ottawa's practice Wednesday, was 14-0-2 with Pittsburgh in 1996-97.
"I'm not really paying too much attention to what records are going on," said Hammond. "I'm just most proud that we've been able to get back in the playoffs and that's something that I think a lot of people counted us out and for us to kind of show the character that we did to take these long steps back is something the whole team can be proud of."
Defensively the Senators have improved overall, due in great part to Hammond. Through the past 21 games Ottawa has allowed 46 goals, whereas in their previous 20 they had given up 58.
"You couldn't ask for better production, with all the young defence we have," said defenceman Marc Methot. "With (assistant captain Chris) Phillips out, we have an extremely young defence corps. The guys are contributing, with all the responsibility they have."
Just as notable has been the play of Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris to name a few.
Karlsson has been the NHL point leader (7G, 17A) since February 10th, when the Senators were 14 points out of the playoffs. Stone is eighth (6G, 16A) and Turris 11th (11G, 10A).
In addition, the Senators have received significant contributions from the line of Zibanejad, Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman who have combined for 18 goals and 32 assists.
Just as important has been the energy supplied by the line of Erik Condra, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar. Senators head coach Dave Cameron has said the trio has been invaluable to the team's success.
Cameron's contributions can't be overlooked either. Cameron has a 26-13-6 record since taking over as head coach December 8th. Players will tell you he's brought enthusiasm, a fresh attitude and given younger players opportunity to develop.
"He understands the young guy role," said Ryan. "I think he's been a good influence on them, whether it was just the ten minutes extra that they were doing at the end of practice or working with them on their confidence in that regard, but he's been influential with them for sure."
As hard as they've worked to get into the top eight the Senators know they can ill afford any complacency through their final ten games.
"At the end of the day we're battling our lives out here for the eighth spot," said Cameron. "I think the fact that we grabbed it now, but there's other teams around us. There's other good teams still in the hunt and we've got some real good teams we have to beat to keep this thing going."
Notes: The Senators practised for the first time since March 2, it's also the first time since then that the Senators had two consecutive days off. No line changes are expected for Thursday's game against the New York Rangers. G Cam Talbot is expected to get the start for New York.