TAMPA — Considering the path he has traveled and how long he has waited for a shot in the NHL, rookie goalie Cedrick Desjardins said just being up with the Lightning is a "dream come true."
But what would it mean for Desjardins, 25, if he gets his first start tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum against the Canadiens, having played in the organization for four years without a callup?
"It would be special for him if he had the chance," said his father, Donald Desjardins, who is in town this week with Cedrick's sister, Jessica, 21. "He'd be very motivated."
Whenever Desjardins does get his chance to start, his idol, Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, said he'll be sure to watch on TV. Roy, who coached Desjardins in juniors for the Quebec Remparts in 2005-06, is very proud. He believes the kid who has been doubted since youth hockey can make it in the NHL.
"I think he deserves a chance, and my belief is that I think he's capable of doing it, there's no doubt about it," Roy said Thursday. "He's all about hard work. He was not drafted in juniors, not drafted in the NHL. He proved that if you believe in yourself … that sacrifice you're making will bring you somewhere, someday. He's a very good example for a lot of players to never quit and persevere, and good things will happen."
Coach Guy Boucher on Wednesday hadn't announced a starter for tonight. Goalie Dan Ellis was expected to carry the load while Mike Smith (knee) is injured, with Desjardins the backup. Before Smith was hurt, Desjardins was called up from AHL Norfolk last week to work with goalies coach Frantz Jean.
Boucher, who coached Desjardins last season with Hamilton, the Canadiens' AHL affiliate, has called him a "big-game goalie." And the Lightning could want to give Desjardins a look at some point considering he's on a one-year contract after being acquired from Montreal in August for Karri Ramo.
Add that Ellis has started a season-high five straight games, and Boucher, who likes putting his goalies in situations in which they can succeed, might consider it.
"For me, it's the next step, and I think I'm ready for it," Desjardins said.
Desjardins, an Edmundston, New Brunswick, native, wasn't drafted, but he took advantage of his opportunities. In 2004-05 with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec junior league, he led the team, along with Penguins star Sidney Crosby, to the finale of the Memorial Cup, Canada's junior league championship.
The next year, he carried the Roy-owned Remparts to a 6-2 win over Moncton in the 2006 Memorial Cup, stopping 46 of 48 shots in earning the tournament's most valuable goaltender award.
Lightning assistant Daniel Lacroix, then a Moncton coach, said Desjardins has been an underdog everywhere he has been and "risen to the top by his work."
"He was always the second goalie everywhere, but he would come, and he'd stand on his head against us," Lacroix said. "He's had some big games at an early age where nobody really saw him because he came out of nowhere a little bit."
Desjardins learned a lot from Roy, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, about the mental approach to the game. But Roy said the main thing Desjardins realized is that winning is "what the position of goaltending is all about."
Desjardins said a key part of his success last season in Hamilton, where he went 29-9-4, was that Boucher trusted him in important games, which allowed his confidence to grow.
"It's all about that opportunity, to be there at the right time and right moment, and hope everything goes your way," Desjardins said. "You've got to be ready to work, because you never know when that day is going to be."
It could be tonight.