BRANDON — When the Lightning takes on the Senators tonight, it will be a homecoming of sorts for forward Erik Condra. It will be his first trip to Ottawa to face the team that drafted him since he left in free agency in July.
"Playing in a rink you played in on the other side for five or six years (and) seeing old teammates and buddies, I'm excited about it," said Condra, 29, taken in the seventh round in 2011. "I enjoyed my time there. It wasn't like they didn't offer anything (to re-sign him). It was a little disappointing, but I was excited to be signed down here."
When Condra and the Senators couldn't agree to terms, Tampa Bay swooped in and gave him a three-year contract. And though Condra hasn't had the season he expected, the Lightning is glad to have the 334-game veteran (299 with Ottawa) who provides versatility.
"That's one thing about having a team is everybody understanding his role," coach Jon Cooper said. "Erik knows his role. Another good thing about Erik is he can play up and down the lineup. He's filled in on the power play for us in important situations; he's played on almost every line. He exemplifies team, and that's why he's a good fit for us."
Condra has been up and down, and in and out of the lineup. He has played in 35 games and has three goals and six points.
"I'm sure when he signed here, he was hoping to play all 82 games," Cooper said. "We signed him for a reason. We signed him because he's a reliable veteran who's outstanding in the room. He brings leadership. He brings poise. He brings knowledge on the bench. When he's asked to play his anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, he gives you everything he has.
"That's one thing about having a team is everybody understanding his role. Erik knows his role."
Condra isn't getting the time he got in Ottawa. One of the Senators' top penalty killers, Condra is averaging a little more than 11 minutes of ice time with the Lightning. Still, the veteran patiently waits until his number is called.
"It's being a pro and just being ready," Condra said. "Sometimes things don't always go your way. You have to work hard to make sure you put yourself in the best position so when you're called, you're ready."