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Condon Has Golden Opportunity to Solidify Himself as No. 2

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Craig Anderson is away on personal leave as his wife Nicholle undergoes cancer treatment, so it’s Mike Condon’s net for now.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

As Guy Boucher has explained many times, when Craig Anderson is available, he will play.

That was definitely the case this past weekend, as Anderson was adamant on playing both games in a back-to-back. And in the future, no one’s going to argue with the 35-year-old if he wants to play twice in 24 hours after coming away with two victories and a shutout against the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers.

But Anderson is now on personal leave again. So it’s Condon’s crease. For now.

“It’s always a game-to-game for everybody,” said Guy Boucher following today’s optional skate. “Like, if you’re asking me about the Saturday game, I haven’t looked at the other team, I haven’t made any decisions, I don’t even know who’s injured.”

Condon may be the man of the hour right now, but there’s no reason why Andrew Hammond can’t win back his job.

“Hammy’s ready to go, he’s played well in the American League,” stated Boucher. “We’ve prepared for this situation. That’s why Pierre’s done a great job going at getting Condon, and that prepares us for right now for the other times when Andy’s not going to be here.”

Condon hasn’t played since Nov. 17 when he got the start against the Nashville Predators at home. That lack of workload doesn’t seem to bother the 26-year-old in the slightest, though.

“I think it’s been two weeks,” Condon said, surrounded by a swarm of media. “But I’m used to that from my college days, practicing a lot. Got a lot of good work in the last two weeks, so I feel pretty prepared right now.”

The last time he was between the pipes for the Senators, Condon stopped 35 of 40 shots in the 5-1 loss. But he’s not exactly losing sleep over it.

“Going back two weeks,” said Condon. “That game (against Nashville) is so far in my rear view that I don’t even remember it. As soon as a game happens, it’s pretty much, you digest what you can from it and then move on to the next day. And I did that on Friday after the Thursday we played (Nashville), so that’s way in the past.”

After shutting down the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres during his first two starts in a Senators uniform, allowing a total of one goal in 125 minutes, Condon actually looked as good as a goaltender could letting five pucks past him. The numbers weren’t quite there, but he fought off an overwhelming amount of pressure from the Predators during a night when the Senators were far from their best in their own end.

Senators GM Pierre Dorion said a couple weeks ago that Condon is one of the most competitive goalies he’s seen. Ottawa will look for him to battle tonight as they host an extremely talented Philadelphia Flyers team.

“Last game, just in general for the team, was a close loss that we want to bounce back from,” said Condon. “Any chance you get to play in this league is a great opportunity. It’s an honour. Starts don’t come easy in this league, so any chance you get to step on the ice in an NHL game is great.”

Boucher said Anderson could return at the earliest on Saturday to play the Panthers at home, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this turns into several games in a row where the team is left with their No. 2 and No. 3.

In that case, Condon has a massive opportunity in front of him. After an up-and-down season in Montreal, a detour through waivers and a trade from Pittsburgh to the nation’s capital, a bit of job security would likely comfort the Holliston, Massachusetts native.

And regardless of how his refusal of a conditioning stint in the AHL is sitting with management, Hammond will be willing and ready if Condon falters at any point.

The battle for the backup job is very much on. For now, the ball is in Condon’s court.