Coach sav­ing goalie call for game day

It might not come un­til Satur­day, but Sens backup goalie will get his chance

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - BRUCE GAR­RIOCH bgar­rioch@post­media.com Twit­ter: @sun­gar­rioch

Will it be Craig An­der­son or Mike Condon Fri­day night against the Calgary Flames at Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome?

Given An­der­son posted a 37-save shutout in a 2-0 win in Ed­mon­ton on Oct. 30 last sea­son — only days af­ter learn­ing his wife Ni­cholle had been di­ag­nosed with a rare form of throat can­cer — it might make sense for the Ottawa Sen­a­tors’ top goalie to start against the Oil­ers at Rogers Place on Satur­day night. Not so fast with that the­ory. The only cer­tainty is Condon will start one of the club’s next two games. No­body’s sure which one it will be yet.

As the Sen­a­tors left the ice Thurs­day fol­low­ing a late af­ter­noon skate at the Stam­pede Cor­ral — just across the street from the Sad­dle­dome — coach Guy Boucher told re­porters he hasn’t de­cided whether he’ll go with An­der­son or Condon against the Flames.

While Boucher does have fond me­mories of An­der­son’s per­for­mance in Ed­mon­ton last fall, that’s in the past and the de­ci­sion will be based on what’s best for the team now. How much of a fac­tor will An­der­son’s shutout ef­fort a year ago weigh into this?

“It’s some­thing in your mind, but it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances be­cause last year wasn’t a back-to-back,” Boucher said Thurs­day night.

“We know Calgary is com­ing back from a road trip. I have to look at the big pic­ture.

“Yeah, if it was an iso­lated game, I think it’d be a no-brainer, but with these cir­cum­stances of back-to-back, we have to re­visit and see what we need to do.”

It cer­tainly sounded like Boucher was lean­ing to­ward An­der­son on Fri­day, but we’ll see.

“I’d give you an an­swer if I had the an­swer be­cause I don’t know what’s go­ing to be the de­cid­ing fac­tor,” he said.

“That’s what we have to sit down and look over with staff and with Pierre Groulx and see where he thinks the goalies are at and who would fit more.”

Condon, ac­quired from the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins in ex­change for a fifth-round pick Nov. 2 of last year, was brought in af­ter Ni­cholle’s di­ag­no­sis. The Sen­a­tors knew An­der­son would need a leave of ab­sence and it’s the best deal gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion has made since tak­ing on the role in April 2016.

While An­der­son took time away to be with his wife when she un­der­went treat­ment at a New York fa­cil­ity, Condon started a fran­chise record 27 straight games. He held the fort un­til An­der­son re­turned in early Fe­bru­ary and Condon’s stel­lar play was a big rea­son for the Sen­a­tors’ trip to the post-sea­son.

This sea­son, Condon’s role is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent.

He knows it and that part has been ad­just­ment.

“I try not to think about what I can’t con­trol, whether I’m play­ing or I’m not play­ing, it’s ba­si­cally, ‘What are you do­ing every day to get bet­ter?’ ” Condon said. “It’s all part of grow­ing as a goalie and ad­just­ing in this league.

“I’ve made a lot of big steps and it’s just a mat­ter of tak­ing a bunch of lit­tle ones and mov­ing with that up­ward tra­jec­tory. I’m not overly con­cerned if I’m play­ing or not play­ing, it’s just about play­ing with the hand that you (are) dealt and if you’re not play­ing, you bet­ter make sure you have the best prac­tice of the sea­son. That’s my at­ti­tude.”

Condon didn’t of­fi­cially test the un­re­stricted free agent mar­ket last sum­mer be­cause he was signed to a three-year, US $7.2mil­lion deal on June 28, but there was no short­age of in­ter­est in Condon dur­ing the talk­ing pe­riod and it’s be­lieved the Toronto Maple Leafs were among the most ag­gres­sive teams in pur­su­ing him.

But Condon was al­ways fo­cused on stay­ing in Ottawa. He has a good re­la­tion­ship with Groulx and An­der­son. The Sen­a­tors as­sured Condon he’ll get a chance to play more than a nor­mal backup be­cause the plan is for An­der­son to play in the 55-game range and the Sen­a­tors also have 19 sets of back-to-back games.

“We all work well to­gether. There’s op­por­tu­nity to sup­port Craig here in a big­ger role than I would with other teams,” he said. “That was very ap­peal­ing to me. I know the op­por­tu­ni­ties are go­ing to come. You never know what hap­pens in this game. You need two guys who can play re­li­able min­utes.”

Boucher said there’s no ques­tion Condon will play “a lot.”

“That’s why he’s here. That’s why we signed him,” he said. “We didn’t sign a guy who’s go­ing to play 10 games here. We want to use him a lot for two rea­sons: He’s good and he’s shown he can play a lot and we want a fresh An­der­son. We know that when An­der­son is fresh he’s got out­stand­ing num­bers.

“Al­ready, we’ve got 19 back-to-backs and most prob­a­bly (Condon will) play in those. So there’s 19 games right there and he’s go­ing to play more.”

I’ve made a lot of big steps and it’s just a mat­ter of tak­ing a bunch of lit­tle ones and mov­ing with that up­ward tra­jec­tory.

KEVIN KING

The Sen­a­tors have yet to de­cide which game it will be, but backup goal­tender Mike Condon is ex­pected to see ac­tion ei­ther Fri­day night in Calgary or Satur­day in Ed­mon­ton as Ottawa plays the first of 19 sets of back-to-back games this sea­son.

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