Condra impressive in killing time

Few National Hockey League players grew up dreaming of becoming penalty killing specialists in the big leagues.

SUNRISE, Florida – Few National Hockey League players grew up dreaming of becoming penalty killing specialists in the big leagues.

Yet if that becomes your calling card, your reason for being indispensable to a team, you go with it.

At least that’s the way Senators winger Erik Condra sees it.

“When you find a niche and find a role that can help your game, you’ve got to take advantage of that and be the best you can be at it,” Condra said before the Senators faced the Florida Panthers here Sunday.

The Senators penalty killing has been outstanding all season long – they ranked second in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins with a 89.5 per cent success rate before Sunday – and Condra is usually the first forward that coach Paul MacLean calls upon. Condra has averaged 2:17 of shorthanded time per game this season, tops among Ottawa’s forwards.

“In college (at Notre Dame), I played a number one penalty killing role, but it was more about trying to score than blocking shots. I was actually never really good at blocking shots, but the thing I learned in Binghamton was shot lanes and things like that. (Former Binghamton coach) Kurt Kleinendorst was very specific at that and helped us out.”

So, is the job of shutting down opposition power plays all about instinct?

“A lot of it is, it’s a lot about reading (the situation) and hopefully knowing where they’re going and what you’re going to do,” Condra said. “It’s more about getting them to try and do what you want them to do.”

While great penalty killers are often overlooked, the role is often pivotal to a team’s success, according to MacLean.

“For the best ones, it is instinctive,” said MacLean. “You can learn, but the guys that do it the best are the guys who have a natural instinct to be in the right place. That makes (Condra) a very important player and right now on our team, he’s our guy. Those are the traits that can keep you in the lineup. (Daniel Alfredsson) does a good job and one guy we’ve missed a lot is Milan Michalek.”

SPEAKING OF MICHALEK: Michalek, working his way back from knee surgery, continues to practice with the club and do extra skating on game days, but MacLean says there is still no time table for his return to the lineup. Could it come Tuesday against Tampa Bay? “He hasn’t knocked on my door yet (to say he’s ready),” said MacLean…Defenceman Jared Cowen also continues to practice with the team, but he’s probably a bit further away….Cory Conacher will be back in his old home in Tampa Monday, only five days after he was traded to the Senators for goaltender Ben Bishop. “I will grab a little more stuff when we go back,” he said. “My girlfriend is in Tampa now. She’s packing things up right now and she’ll end up driving back to Ottawa when we get back.”… Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson spent part of Saturday entertaining a group of former teammates and opponents he played with and against while in Sweden. They’re here for a men’s hockey tournament which begins Monday. Alfredsson spent the rest of the day on the links, saying “it was pretty good, pretty solid, but I didn’t shoot my age.” He shot a 74…The Ottawa Valley was well represented in the seats at the BT&T Centre Sunday. Jim Beam, a Senators season ticket holder who lives in Ompah, about 75 kilometres northwest of Scotiabank Place, was holding up a sign saying ‘We drove 1,500 miles to see the Sens win’. He was joined by his daughter, Janice, who leaves in Port Hope. They will go on Tampa to see the Senators play the Lightning Tuesday. The Hickeys from Deep River are also following the Senators on the Florida trip.

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