Ex-Moose goalie goes with the Habs

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

Curtis Sanford understood he was probably going to have to take a step back before moving forward again.

For a guy who spent most of the past four seasons at the NHL level, that meant looking for a good situation to refine his game in the American Hockey League when he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Sanford, who finished last season as the Manitoba Moose backup, looked closely at situations with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Atlanta Thrashers but ultimately decided to sign with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs already had Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak under contract, but both will become restricted free agents at season's end -- provided one or the other isn't traded to another NHL team before then.

"Making this decision was the best thing for me to get back on the ice and get into a lot of games," said Sanford, who watched yesterday's game between the Moose and Hamilton Bulldogs. "I'm also trying to set up myself for something after this year too."

After the parent Vancouver Canucks brought in Jason LaBarbera last season, Sanford became the odd-man out and found himself down on the farm with the Moose.

Since the Moose had Cory Schneider between the pipes, Sanford knew his playing time would be limited but he was outstanding whenever called upon, posting a record of 7-3-3 with a 1.73 goals against average and two shutouts.

"Coming down, I knew what was going on and I wasn't going to ruffle feathers. I'm not the type of person to do that," said Sanford, who is 6-2-2 with a 1.61 goals against average and two shutouts in 12 games with the Bulldogs this season. "It was important for me to work with Cory and just be a solid team guy. I think I was able to do that. I wasn't going to be selfish.

"I'm glad I was able to play well when I was asked to play and set myself into getting more games in this year. (The Moose playoff run) was a ton of fun and a great experience. It was the first time I played in June and hopefully it's something I can repeat here in Hamilton."

Moose head coach Scott Arniel appreciated the way Sanford handled himself last season under the tough circumstances and would have been open to bringing him back -- were it not for the fact the Moose already had a No. 1 goalie in Schneider expected to return.

"More than anything, it was his attitude and demeanour. He was extremely positive," said Arniel. "He knew Schneids was going to play, but he continued to keep his game at a very high level. He wanted to prove to people that he wasn't going to hang his head.

"If this had been a different year or different situation, we would have taken him back with open arms. He would have been a guy we targeted."

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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