OTTAWA — With a few good practices under his belt, Andrew Hammond is finally ready to see some game action.
The Senators goaltender is set to make his season debut Thursday night as Ottawa hosts the New Jersey Devils.
He was one of hockey's biggest stories last season as he took the team on a historical run that ended with him signing a US$5.25 million, three-year contract extension. A relative unknown in the hockey world when he was called up by the Senators in February, Hammond quickly became a household name in Ottawa as he went 20-1-2 in 24 games.
Coming into camp Hammond was excited to build off last season's success, but was sidelined early October with a mild groin strain forcing him to miss the first week of the regular season.
The 27-year-old has backed up Craig Anderson for the past three games and is looking forward to getting his first start.
"I feel ready," said Hammond. "It's one of those things where you've been practising really well and it's just a matter of time where you get a chance to put it into a game."
The Senators have had three straight days of practice giving Hammond an opportunity to see a lot of shots and test his groin.
"I think it's good timing," said assistant coach Andre Tourigny. "He had three good practices in a row, he's feeling good and he was really good during practice. I have no issue about him jumping in the season Thursday."
Hammond admits his excitement level might be a little higher than usual considering how long he's waited for this. Hammond's last start was April 17 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final playoff series.
"I know I'm probably going to be a little bit more anxious than I would for a normal start, but there's ways you can control that and I know I'll need to do that," Hammond said. "It's not something I'm really too worried about and more or less just excited to get the first one out of the way."
After three days of practice the Senators are anxious to get back to action, but don't deny the extra practice time was invaluable.
"I haven't been a part of this, to be honest with you, before," said forward Mika Zibanejad. "It is different. We'll see the results of this in the next couple games I guess. It's hard to say ... it's nice to practice, but obviously you want to play."
With power play goals in just two of the team's six games the Senators are hoping the extra time spent working with the man advantage will pay off.
Ottawa's power play is tied for ninth at 22.2 per cent and has gone 4-for-18, but it should be noted that three of the goals were all scored in one game.
"I'm really happy about the way we play," said Tourigny. "It's a matter of time for me to have production, but I think we're happy right now. They move the puck well, we have net presence, we have good entry and our breakout is good so I'm really happy."
Notes: D Marc Methot, who was diagnosed with a concussion earlier this week, was able to participate in the full practice Wednesday, but remains day-to-day and is not expected to return before Saturday.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press