- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2011

OTTAWA (AP) - When Craig Anderson looks at his teammates lined up in front of him, the Ottawa Senators goaltender can’t help but feel he’s seen this situation before.

A team with a relatively unproven lineup and free of expectations, similar to one he played for a couple of seasons ago in Colorado, and one that proved to be among the surprises of the NHL by season’s end.

Not much is expected of the Senators as the rebuilding process that began in February with the trade of several key veterans continues. In fact, most preseason predictions have them expected to finish closer to the bottom of the standings than the playoffs.

Anderson was 38-25-7 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage during the 2009-10 season and led Colorado to a playoff berth.

If Anderson can replicate that form, the Senators could spring a similar surprise on the rest of the Eastern Conference and return to postseason after missing out last spring, the second time in three years that’s happened.

“If you came into the room every year thinking you weren’t going to be in the playoffs, you wouldn’t be in this league,” Anderson said during training camp.

He arrived in a February trade from the Avalanche and got a four-year, $12.75 million contract extension to provide the Senators with a No. 1 goalie.

“You come in here with the attitude that you guys can beat anybody and youth, age, experience, it doesn’t mean anything once the puck gets dropped out there. In general, it comes down to who wants it more.”

Desire shouldn’t be a problem for the Senators. They’re eager to make up for a disastrous 32-40-10 showing that cost coach Cory Clouston his job.

General manager Bryan Murray signed a three-year contract extension, allowing him to follow through on the rebuilding process he began by shedding veteran salary before last season’s trade deadline in favor of a youth movement.

His first order of business in the offseason was to hire Paul MacLean as coach.

MacLean is preaching a speed game, the kind played by the Detroit Red Wings, for whom he served with as an assistant under Mike Babcock for the past six seasons.

Of course, that’ll be a tough ask given that the Senators don’t have players comparable to forwards Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg or defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

However, they do have players hungry to make sure they stay at the NHL level.

MacLean is a 53-year-old who made his name as a player with the Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues by scoring and playing a hard-nosed game.

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