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Ottawa's Anderson has rough road ahead
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The luxurious flow of defenseman Erik Karlsson is usually the first thing fantasy owners think of when it comes to the Ottawa Senators, but goaltender Craig Anderson, who has nary a hair on his head, has been one of the best overall fantasy players early this season.

Anderson, 31, has stopped nearly everything shot at him this season to start out 4-0-1 with 147 saves in 152 chances (.967). He has played 305 minutes in his five starts and Tuesday's 3-2 win over Washington was the first time this season he has allowed more than one goal.

Unfortunately, he hasn't played his own division yet. Once Ottawa gets into the meat of its schedule, Anderson's fantasy value will sink quickly.

He appeared in 16 games against the Northeast Division -- Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens -- all of which were starts, and was rocked for 47 goals on 446 shots in 839 minutes. That equates to a 3.36 GAA and .895 save percentage.

He also struggled badly against the Western Conference, going 6-8 with a 3.27 GAA and .897 save percentage in 808 minutes. Fortunately, he doesn't have to play the West at all this season, since the 48-game season will only feature intraconference games.

Anderson actually had a 2.40 GAA in 1845 minutes against non-Northeast Eastern Conference teams and he has already had great success against them this season, so the only area he will have to improve in is against his own division. But that will be a tall task.

Despite starting the first half of a back-to-back Tuesday, Anderson will start again Wednesday in his first game against a divisional opponent. He'll get the Montreal Canadiens, who have surprisingly started 4-1 with 17 goals in five games.

Montreal was less potent last season but still took Anderson to the woodshed for 11 goals on 91 shots in 189 minutes over four games (1-3, 3.48 GAA, .879 save percentage).

Including the Canadiens on Wednesday, Ottawa still has to play the Northeast Division 18 times over the remaining 43 games. That's nearly 42 percent of the schedule.

That means Anderson will have to face the Bruins (0-3, 4.75 GAA, .860 save percentage last season), Maple Leafs (2-1, 3.55 GAA, .904 save percentage) and Canadiens almost every other game.

The one divisional opponent Anderson probably won't mind seeing is the Sabres, against whom he went 3-1-1 with a 2.13 GAA and .924 save percentage. Unfortunately, the Sens only get Buffalo four times, compared to five times for Boston and Toronto.

Anderson has spent most of his career as a backup in Chicago, Florida, Colorado and Ottawa, and only has been a full-time starter for two seasons -- 2009-10 and 2011-12 -- since his career began in 2002. He didn't show the ability to be a dominator in the crease in either of those seasons.

And it's not like Ottawa really helps the veteran out much defensively. The Senators gave up the second-most shots on goal in the NHL last season with 2,627 and they have allowed 183 in six games this season. Ottawa had trouble clearing the puck from their defensive zone for long stretches Tuesday against Washington.

There will be benefits to owning Anderson this season. Ottawa's offense has looked good, leading the NHL in SOG with 206. So the wins should be there. And not having to face the Western Conference should help Anderson improve on his numbers from 2011-12.

But you have a better chance of seeing Anderson sprout a full head of hair this season than you do of him continuing to be a No. 1 fantasy netminder.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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