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'Sneaky good' Condra versatile asset for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward Erik Condra opened plenty of eyes by winning the shootout competition at Sens Skills, but his offensive abilities are hardly a mystery to his Ottawa teammates (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images).

Erik Condra can't help grinning as he recalls the words from his past.

A rather astute quote, one might suggest, that also rings true about his growing impact on the fortunes of the Ottawa Senators.

"One coach described it as 'sometimes you don't notice him all game, and he'll end up with a couple of points at the end of the night,'” Condra said when asked if the phrase "quietly efficient" might well describe his offensive contributions to the team.

Mind you, it's not exactly a sentiment you'll find within the Senators dressing room. Let's just say Condra's victory in the elimination shootout competition that closed out Tuesday's Sens Skills event at Scotiabank Place — and the multitude of creative ways he went about finding the back of the net — weren't exactly a major surprise to his teammates.

"That didn't shock us at all," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "We know the skills (Condra) has and how good he is in tight, and he's got a real good stick ... He's a real smart player. He's got underrated skills and sneaky hands. He's a heck of a player. You can tell by some of the goals he's scored this year that he's got the offensive touch. Given more confidence and opportunity, he'll continue to do well."

That opportunity appears to be at hand, as Condra has been elevated to the Senators' second line alongside Colin Greenng and Kyle Turris in advance of Friday night's matchup with the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

"He seems to make any line he plays on a pretty good line," Senators head coach Paul MacLean said of Condra, who's in his first full season in Ottawa. "He's the kind of player you could say is 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 plays well defensively.

"So he's the kind of player who can play with anybody and play well."

If that sounds a lot like former Senators centre Chris Kelly ... well, it's a comparison that's been made by some in the organization for awhile now. While Condra is showing he's more than capable of posting offensive numbers, he's also more than aware of his responsibilities at the other end of the ice. Everything gets done — and done right — in the same quiet, understated way.

"I don't do anything super flashy or make the huge hits to get recognized," said Condra, a seventh-round pick (211th overall) by the Senators in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. "I do the little things and I'm always in the right position and (the offence) takes care of itself.

"When I went to college (at Notre Dame), I worked on my defensive game to become more of a complete player. Before that, I was always a smart player, but just working on little things like stick position and knowing where to be and when you need to be there in the defensive zone really carried me through to my pro career. And I know I had to think about it and take a huge responsibility with it to be here."

But snooze for a moment on Condra — who shares the Senators' plus-minus lead (+6) with blueliner Filip Kuba — and he'll find a way to burn you offensively. Even if it's not a part of his game that's been his No. 1 calling card.

"I wouldn't say I'm a natural goal scorer," said the 25-year-old native of Trenton, Mich., who's notched six goals this season to date. "I was actually more of a setup guy for the early part of my career. Hopefully, I'm sneaky around the net. I'm not going to bomb the slap shot from the point but around the net, sometimes I make some sneaky moves that end up going in the net and that's all that really matters sometimes.

"If you get a lot of those, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how it goes in, right?"

Sneaky good, indeed, it might be said.

Around the boards

Veteran blueliner Chris Phillips (upper body) took in a full practice with the team today at Scotiabank Place and appears on target to return to the lineup against the Flames. "I was pleased to get through practice today," said Phillips, who sat out Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens — only the second game he's missed in the last five seasons. "I'll see how it responds in the morning and go from there, but it's definitely a positive sign today" ... Forward Jesse Winchester (concussion) rode the stationary bike today, a key step toward his eventual return to the lineup. "It's a positive sign," said MacLean ... Fewer than 50 tickets remain for Friday's game ... The Senators close out 2011 on Saturday night, when they face the Sabres in Buffalo (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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