Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Condra hopes his game is returning for stretch run

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — It had been so long since Lightning wing Erik Condra had earned a postgame TV interview that he had to get his teeth from the locker room Tuesday night.

Condra, who scored two goals — the first and last — in a 6-2 win over the Red Wings, took a puck to the mouth in a game a few years back and lost his top front four teeth. He normally doesn't wear his dental implants during games.

Tuesday he had good reason to smile. Having scored one goal in Tampa Bay's previous 65 games, he was the spark and the final punctuation in a key win as the Lightning jockeys for playoff position with nine games left in the regular season entering tonight's home game against the Islanders.

"I think I've started to get my game back a little bit," said Condra, 29, who played his first five NHL seasons in Ottawa. "Sometimes you need to take baby steps to get back to where you were, and hopefully this will continue as the season goes and the playoffs. It's a critical time of the year."

Condra was the lone offseason addition the Lightning made after it lost to the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final. He came to Tampa with experience playing for coach Jon Cooper from two junior seasons as a teenager. Cooper was a part-time coach and part-time lawyer then.

"Whenever you got a speeding ticket, he would get us off," Condra said.

They worked together in humbler times in Texarkana, Texas, times when a rodeo claimed their home arena for six weeks, making the team drive 90 minutes to practice in Little Rock, Ark., or Shreveport, La.

"It was ridiculous," Condra said. "Crazy towns. The road you take always makes you appreciate it a little more."

This season has been a quiet one for Condra, who scored two goals in the first week but has regularly been a healthy scratch, fighting to get regular work in an unsung role, primarily neutralizing opposing lines.

"He's been fighting for his identity with our team," Cooper said. "It's tough when you come into a team and you're the only new guy. When everybody else is on the same page, he has to find his way a little bit.

"I think he's done a heck of a job. He's a complete pro. You're pulling for him all the time."

Working on the penalty kill and tasked with checking shifts, Condra has earned the respect of his new teammates, who were thrilled to see him rewarded with two goals Tuesday, especially in a key win down the stretch.

"He's one of those guys that works hard every single night," Tyler Johnson said. "So for him to get rewarded like that, that's awesome for our team and awesome for him individually."

Condra's big game came with about 35 friends and family in the stands. He's from Trenton, Mich., near Detroit, so having the Red Wings in town during spring break brought a big cheering section. Playoffs aside, Condra has another thing to be excited about. His wife, Ryan, is due with their second child, a girl, next week, joining son Callan, who is 18 months old.

"If we're going to go anywhere, we need depth," Cooper said, "and he's helping with that."

Comments

Red-hot Lightning leading NHL in more than wins

Nikita Kucherov, top left, celebrates with teammate Steven Stamkos (91) after scoring against Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer. [AP photo]The Lightning (15-2-2) enters tonight’s game against the visiting Islanders (10-6-2) leading the leagu...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

TAMPA — A local TV crew set up shop in front of Brayden Point’s locker stall the other day, waiting for the Lightning forward to be ready.Then, captain Steven Stamkos walked into the room for his scrum. It didn’t take long for the TV crew to change c...
Published: 11/17/17
Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

TAMPA — The Lightning welcomed Ben Bishop back with a classy, fitting video tribute in Thursday’s first period. The sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena gave Bishop, the greatest goalie in franchise history, a standing ovation. It was an emotional...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

TAMPA — C Braydon Point’s shorthanded goal tipped the game in the Lightning’s favor and the three penalties it killed during the second period kept it that way in Thursday’s 6-1 victory against the Stars.Dallas entered the game with an NHL-best 30.2 ...
Published: 11/16/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Thursday’s Lightning-Stars game

There was a classy, fitting video tribute to former Lightning goalie Ben Bishop in the first period. Think of all the moments in his five seasons in Tampa Bay. It had to be emotional for Bishop, who calls Tampa his second home. He touched his heart a...
Published: 11/16/17
Lightning vs. Stars vs. Bishop vs. No. 1 PP in NHL

Lightning vs. Stars vs. Bishop vs. No. 1 PP in NHL

Stars’ G Ben Bishop returns to Amalie Arena tonight for the first time since his last home game as a Lightning, which came before last season’s trade deadline.The teacher vs. the pupil (Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy) is one story line.He...
Published: 11/16/17
Lightning hold ‘Military Appreciation Night’ tonight

Lightning hold ‘Military Appreciation Night’ tonight

The Lightning will wear special camouflaged jerseys during pregame warmups tonight as part of "Military Appreciation Night."The jerseys include a nametag of an honorary service man or woman who will be present during the warmups, either on the team b...
Published: 11/16/17
Rick and Tom podcast: The hottest team in sports plays in Tampa Bay

Rick and Tom podcast: The hottest team in sports plays in Tampa Bay

The hottest team in sports plays right here in Tampa Bay, as the Lightning has started the season 14-2-2, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the NHL in wins, Steven Stamkos leads in points and Nikita Kucherov leads in goals scored. In the latest episode...
Published: 11/16/17
Jones: The goalie who could make us forget Ben Bishop

Jones: The goalie who could make us forget Ben Bishop

TAMPA — Former Lightning goalie Ben Bishop showed up at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.So how’s the big guy doing?Don’t know. Don’t care.Sorry, that’s wasn’t meant to be mean. Bishop is a great goalie, a good guy and a class act. He helped turn the Lightn...
Published: 11/15/17
Lightning Strikes podcast: Ben Bishop vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Lightning Strikes podcast: Ben Bishop vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

In our latest Lightning Strikes! podcast, Joe Smith and Tom Jones discuss Ben Bishop’s return to Tampa, his legacy with the Lightning, and the play of new No. 1 goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.They also talk about the emergence of Vladislav Namestnikov, th...
Published: 11/15/17