Backup eager for home start

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

After two wins and three appearances on the road this season, London goalie Stephane Cesar is eager to show Knights fans what he can do at the John Labatt Centre.

The lanky netminder from Gatineau, Que., is in line to get that opportunity with starter Steve Mason at the Canadian world junior team selection in Calgary. Mason didn't participate at the Canadian practice yesterday because he's being monitored for concussion-like symptoms after being run over Saturday by Windsor's Cory McGillis.

"Stephane's our starter at this moment but it's a day-to-day depending on how Steve's doing and whether or not he'll be back here on the weekend," London head coach Dale Hunter said.

The Knights play Windsor Friday night and Guelph Saturday. If Mason is cut by Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg Friday and is healthy enough, there is a slight chance he could return to London in time to play.

"I don't know what's going to happen yet -- I just found out Steve was at the Canadian camp being looked at for a concussion," the 18-year-old Cesar said. "There's a chance I'll get to play at least one game this weekend. If it's at home, that's great. I love the building. It's bigger than most of the rinks in the Q (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and it's a nice place. When I was in Rouyn-Noranda (last season), there's about 1,000 in the stands and it's not as new."

Cesar, a natural left-hander who wears his catching glove on his right hand like Mason, has won both of his starts in shootout victories at Guelph and Sault Ste. Marie. He relieved Mason Saturday in Windsor and was immediately run over by the Spitfires' Bradley Snetsinger.

"I don't know what they were doing, but you thought it was going to stop after one guy got hurt," he said.

Cesar started this season with Rouyn-Noranda and played well early in training camp before getting caught in a numbers crunch.

"I knew Steve Mason was an NHL draft pick (by Columbus) and that he'd be playing most of the games in London, but I just wanted the chance to play major junior hockey and I ended up here," Cesar said.

"It's been good to play in Petrolia (the Western Ontario Hockey League's cellar-dwelling Jets). We don't win much, but I face a lot of shots. It keeps you ready."

The French-speaking Cesar was born in Ottawa but grew up in Gatineau. His father is from Haiti.

Meanwhile, London forward Sergei Kostitsyn left yesterday to join the Belarus team to prepare for the world junior championship in Sweden. Pat Kane will play for London Friday and Saturday before leaving Sunday to join the U.S. world junior team.


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