Condra shoots, scores bigger role

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

OTTAWA - Seventeen times this season, Paul MacLean has had to decide which of his players to send over the boards in a shootout, and not once has he tapped Erik Condra on the shoulder.

That may change now.

It was really no surprise at all (yeah, right) that Condra, who is sixth on the team with six goals, was the last man standing in the shootout survivor contest in Wednesday’s team skills competition.

“I think some of the boys knew I was one of the favourites going in,” Condra deadpanned a day later. “Besides (Erik) Karlsson and the other 20 guys, I was one of the favourites.”

MacLean wasn’t at the event, but did hear about the results.

“We have to,” the coach said with a chuckle, when asked if he’ll consider Condra the next time the Senators are tied after overtime. “Him and (Filip) Kuba (the other finalist). We’ll see, now that we know.”

The fact MacLean promoted Condra from fourth line to second — alongside Kyle Turris and Colin Greening — for Thursday’s practice had nothing to do with the skills competition.

More that the Senators have scored just three goals while losing their past two games, and Condra scored two goals as Turris’ right winger when the latter made his Senators debut last week.

Condra was never expected to emerge as a top sniper. He never had more than 15 goals in his four seasons at Notre Dame, and just 28 in 135 games for Binghamton before being promoted.

His value to the Senators is of a different nature.

“He seems to make any line he plays on a pretty good line,” said MacLean, who has used Condra on every line. “He’s kind of a player you’d say is kind of the conscience of the line, he’s always in a good spot defensively, always puts the puck in a good spot, gets around the rink real good, does a good job on the boards and in his own zone ... he’s the type of player that can play with anybody.”

But Craig Anderson sees some offensive upside in his fellow American.

“I’ve been saying that for a long time here,” said Anderson, Condra’s victim in the shootout. “He is sneaky, he’s undercover, but obviously you’ve got to be given the opportunity. I think by him doing it every day, putting in the work at practice and showing guys he’s got some scoring ability, he’ll get rewarded for it eventually.”

Condra had six goals in 26 games for the Senators last season, so he’s already matched his personal best.

“Sometimes you just have some confidence, once you score one you score a few,” he said. “I think I can be offensive, create plays. With confidence comes patience, and with that comes more offensive ability, I think.”

WESTERNER OR EASTERNER?

Defenceman Chris Phillips practised Thursday and is expected to return from a one-game injury absence against his hometown team.

What, you thought Phillips’ home town is Ottawa? Understandable. The “Big Rig” has been a staple of this community since playing his first game for the Senators in 1997. But Phillips, raised in Fort McMurray, Alta, was actually born in Calgary.

So almost 15 years later, what is he now? A Westerner or an Easterner?

Phillips stayed on the fence when fielding that one, despite urges for him to come on down.

“West is in the blood,” he said. “But at the same time, I have called it home here. I don’t know if you can ever get that out of you.”

Um, OK? But you will settle here when you retire, right?

“I don’t think I’ll be going back there to live,” he said. “I’ve set up pretty strong roots here now, with my own family.

“But for (former Senator and Saskatchewan native) Shaun Van Allen, who’s (reading) right now, I’m sure it’s Westerner forever.”

Are you going to apply for your Eastern Canadian citizenship, or what?

“What do you have to do?”

Never mind. You’ve done it. In fact, you’re totally all-Ottawa now. You’ve turned into a politician.


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