SUN Hockey Pool

Con-do attitude pays off

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

The red light was on, the horn bellowed and the fans were clamouring to their feet.

Yet, Craig Conroy still couldn't believe he'd finally scored.

Oh sure, he raised his stick in celebration after converting a first-period breakaway by going five-hole, but the hesitation following the game-opening shorthanded marker was understandable from a man whose confidence has rivalled that of Wall Street investors of late.

"I looked ... and I think I was more relieved to see it go in because I haven't scored since Game 3," said Conroy, beaming as he recounted his second goal of the year.

"I definitely felt a little weight come off my shoulders."

Refreshingly candid about how brutal he was two nights earlier when he worried he'd blown his chance at remaining on the top line alongside pal Jarome Iginla, Conroy rewarded coach Mike Keenan for sticking with him.

Scoring twice, adding an assist and generally robbed, mauled and just plain unlucky on repeated attempts to complete the hat trick, the 37-year-old was by far the best player on the ice in a 7-6 free-for-all over Nashville at the 'Dome.

"I can sleep tonight," said Conroy, who admitted he'd tossed and turned in bed after Tuesday's loss in which he felt responsible for two goals, was on for three and played with a general malaise.

"When you lose, you just lay there and think about the mistakes you made. I haven't been able to contribute the way I did tonight. I was disappointed (after Tuesday) -- and you feel you're letting down the team."

Loitering between the first and third lines all year long, Conroy made his case for sticking with Iginla and his old Kings teammate Mike Cammalleri by flashing the type of offensive might he displayed when he had 27 goals and 75 points here in 2001-02. His role and abilities have changed considerably since then, but with Matthew Lombardi still shelved with a shoulder injury, the salty ol' dog finally relocated his nose for the net. This after several games of trying to force things to Iginla, to no avail.

"Jarome hadn't scored, and I was looking for him all the time and forcing passes instead of going and playing," said Conroy, who had just a goal and four assists heading into the evening.

"He draws so much attention, I'm going to be more open than I think. I look to give it back to him, but as long as I play with him I'll skate hard to net if he's there he's there, if not, I'll take it myself."

He likely just extended his stay on the top unit.

Conroy's second goal came later in the first when he took a sweet Iginla dish in the slot and picked the inside of the post with a defender draped all over him.

"I think (everyone tried to help him) until Iggy had two (goals) and then it was all about getting Iggy his third -- I got lost by the wayside," laughed Conroy. "That's okay, I've had a couple."

The joke in the dressing room was Conroy had jump because he didn't skate in the morning as he usually does.

"He's got to exercise his options because I've given him a lot of options and he still goes on the ice," joked coach Mike Keenan. "I didn't give him the option, so maybe I learned something about him today."

Maybe we all did -- he's not done yet.


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