SNAPSHOT: Jake Sanderson follows in father’s footsteps against Sabers in NHL opener

« I’m excited. It’s my first game and playing here is pretty cool because my (dad) played here too. »

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BUFFALO – It was by Jake Sanderson welcome to the NHL moment.

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As the Ottawa Senators season kicked off Thursday night, the rookie defenseman took the traditional rookie tour at the KeyBank Center before warming up to kick off what many hope will be a long and successful career for the 20-year-old Sanderson.

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Just for good measure, Buffalo fans booed him.

While it seems like it took a while after he signed from the University of North Dakota last March – a hand injury that required two surgeries delayed the debut of the club’s No. 5 draft pick from the NHL in 2020 – it was worth the wait.

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Sanderson’s father, Geoff, was in the stands with Sanderson’s uncle, Guy.

Geoff Sanderson played in 1,104 NHL games with Hartford, Vancouver, Columbus, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Arizona. He also spent three seasons with the Sabers from 1997-2000, so having the Senators face the Sabers was a nice touch.

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Sanderson’s mother, Ellen, was unable to make the trip, but she will be at the club’s home opener against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Legendary Broadcaster God Wilson noted that Geoff Sanderson made his debut for the Whalers in the 1990-91 campaign against Buffalo and scored on his only shot.

« I’m super excited. It’s my first game and playing here is pretty cool because my (dad) played here too, » Sanderson said after taking the optional skate on Thursday morning. « To have him here, I’m pretty excited. »

He planned to follow his usual game day routine, which included a pre-game nap.

« I feel like I’m pretty calm right now, but once game time approaches, I feel the nerves will start to build for me, » Sanderson said.

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The only advice Sanderson got from the coach DJ Smith and his teammates had to take advantage of the moment, because you only play your first game in the NHL once.

« He’s a pretty quiet kid, » Smith said before facing the Sabres. “I spoke to him (on Wednesday) about facing the Sabers and the arrival of his father. These are all special times for many children and there will also be children on (Buffalo).

« It’s one of many games for him. The most important thing is to try to stay loose because the guys are tense. I try to be as loose as possible with these guys, but I realize that there are butterflies for everyone.

What we learned about Sanderson in camp is that he’s pretty level-headed. It never goes too high and it never goes too low. What we saw on the ice was that he played calmly and showed good balance for a player his age.

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« I like the way he defends, » Smith said. “His stick positioning, his ability to defend the run and his way of playing are way ahead of kids his age. We talked a lot about his ability to create an attack, but I don’t think we talked enough about him, what quickly brought him into the league was his ability to defend.

« From the outset, I think he is one of our best defenders. »


I popped into the Sabers locker room on Thursday and had a nice chat with the former Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.

He spent a decade in net for the Senators, is the winningest goaltender in franchise history and will later be honored by the organization. When he was cleared for unrestricted free agency in June 2020, some thought his NHL career might be over.

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This was not the case. He spent the shortened 2020-21 campaign with the Washington Capitals, then signed with the Sabers in the summer of 2021 to help stabilize the net.

It says a lot about Anderson as the 41-year-old is in his second season with the Sabers and started in the club’s first game against his former side. He finished 17-12-2 with Buffalo last season with a 3.12 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.

Buffalo Coach Don Granat admires Anderson’s perseverance.

“When you look at his age, how many times have you seen an athlete, at that age, play a position (that requires) 60 minutes per game? He did a really amazing job,” Granato said. “What I see of Craig is a guy very much connected to his love of the game.

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« He sees that, ‘Hey, my career is coming to an end and I’m clearly and definitely going to miss that so I’m going to like what I’m missing.’ It’s coming to the rink, rubbing shoulders with the team, and then going into battle with the players. It’s remarkable how he’s been able to simplify that again and find a resurgence of passion and energy.


Blueliner Nikita Zaitsev was a healthy scratch for this one. The club have seven defenders in camp and he was the odd one out. Artem Zub, who suffered from a minor ailment that prevented him from skating on Monday, was given the green light to play… The AHL club affiliate in Belleville presented his leadership group ahead of Friday night’s opener on the road against Laval Rocket. veteran defender Dillon Heatherington was named captain earlier in the week as Jake Lucchini, Scott Sabourin, Jayce Hawryluk and Rourke-Chartier serve as alternates.

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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