Cesar in battle for No. 2 goalie

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Stephane Cesar knows the London Knights have been weighing the pros and cons of keeping him this season but he's still as calm as they come.

Patience obviously runs in the family. His parents made the 11-hour drive from Gatineau, Que., last week for a visit and when he didn't play on Friday, continued on to Windsor on Saturday to see him start in goal.

"It's the second time they've been here to see me," Cesar said. "It's a long way to go and the game didn't go too well (an 8-2 loss) but you just have to work through it."

Obviously, he hopes they will make the journey again this year. The incumbent London backup is competing for that right again with first-round draft pick Michael Zador and six-foot-seven hopeful Stephen Heming, a battle that likely won't be determined until after the regular season starts.

London's Steve Mason, the OHL's reigning top goalie, is expected to have a long stay at Columbus Blue Jackets NHL camp and likely won't be back when London opens its regular season Sept. 21 at home against Sarnia.

"We could start the season by rotating all three of them through for the first few games," London goalie coach Dave Rook said.

"All three are mature and know what the situation is. We're hoping through the final two exhibition games (against Saginaw this weekend) that one of them makes the decision for us."

As a junior veteran, Cesar believes he is capable of being a starting goalie in the OHL. After waiting a month-and-a-half last year for his first start, he played in nine games, plus some playoff action, and compiled a solid 3.39 goals against average -- winning his opener in Guelph in a shootout.

Cesar, who spent the summer on the ice with many of his hockey-playing pals (including Columbus first-rounder Derick Brassard), didn't think he needed much of an adjustment to the OHL life after playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. One of the only changes is he doesn't get the chance to speak much in French, "but I have a girlfriend so I'm speaking it every day," he said with a laugh. "It's basically the same league as the 'Q' and the only difference is the defence here sticks to defence a little more instead of looking to take off up the ice and there's less focus on fancy stuff."

Last weekend, London was able to get a first look at Zador, who has recovered from an ankle sprain.

In a way, the three goalies in camp are in the same situation Mason is with the Canadian junior team. One was a backup last year -- gold-medal winning Leland Irving -- and it's up to Mason and Jonathan Bernier to convince head coach Craig Hartsburg they belong on the team.

"Steve handles the puck very well and he's also very good at shootouts -- which it can come down to at the world juniors -- and those things play a factor in the decision-making," Rook said. "I know he got the start in the first game (of the Canada-Russia Super Series) because he did so well on shoot-ins.

"He played in two-and-a-half of the eight games and I don't think he hurt his chances of making the team. The ADT Russia-Canada series is coming up later this year so he'll have another chance to prove himself in that."


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