Sometimes games are just a little more fun.
Especially Teddy Bear Toss games in Bakersfield when you can score the first goal for the Condors, then skate off the ice later with a victory.
Such was the case for Brad Malone last Saturday night when he set off a tsunami of stuffed animals — a record 10,549 of them to be precise — when he scored a shorthanded goal before a sellout crowd of 8,862 two minutes into the second period.
“To be honest, when I got that breakaway I thought it would be kind of fun to get this one,” Malone said. “Once it went in I kind of smirked to myself and said 'soak this one in.'”
Malone had barely thrust his left stick high into the air in celebration when the bears started flying.
By being the goal scorer, Malone earned an early-morning trip on Monday to help in the counting.
“The boys were giving me a hard time (about the early wake-up call) but to get back to helping out in the community puts things in perspective pretty quickly,” he said. “I don’t think a guy in my position can be complaining about getting up a couple of hours early.”
Malone also ended up in an on-air interview on the NHL Network.
“It’s funny,” he said. “It could have been anyone on the team. We scored seven goals that night. I was fortunate enough to be the one to get the first one. I’ll take what comes with it. It’s fun, but it’s a team game. It could have been anybody.”
Malone, 28, played full time in the NHL for Carolina in 2104-15 and 2105-16 before spending all of last season at the AHL level. Edmonton signed him over the summer for depth at the NHL level, and a leadership role with the Condors. The seventh-year veteran has played 183 games at the NHL level, including seven this season for the Oilers.
“When I went to training camp, I wanted to push for a spot,” Malone said. “You have to have that attitude.”
But Malone, a center, also knew it was likely he’d end up in Bakersfield and he was good with that.
“In training camp they split our groups up (NHL/AHL) pretty early and once it happened I was excited,” he said.
His roles are vastly different depending on what level he is playing, but Malone said the basics of his game never change.
“Different minutes, for sure,” said Malone, who was playing seven or fewer minutes as a fourth-liner in Edmonton and logs around 18 minutes as a top-six forward with the Condors. “I try to approach every shift the same, whoever I’m playing against or whatever league it’s in. Maybe a little more physical up top because that’s a little more of my role.
“I try to be hard working, simple and accountable. Whatever situation I’m in, I just try to do my best.”
Malone has six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 10 games with the Condors but he has never been a prolific scorer at the pro level.
“He’s responsible without the puck, wins draws — key draws, kill penalties, chips in on the power play,” Condors coach Gerry Fleming said. “He has a lot of tools in his bag.
“His faceoff average the last couple of games are through the roof. I think he’s at 65 percent average, which is pretty good in any league.”
But the Conddors still have to manufacture goals and, even with their seven-goal outburst on Saturday, they remain in the bottom five of the league in that category.
For his part, Malone said goals like the one he had on Teddy Bear Toss night will be few and far between.
“It’s about getting pucks on net and going to that dirty area to find goals,” he said. “The skilled plays and individual plays are nice, they look great on video, but at the end of the day they’re seldom.
“It’s about going to those hard areas. That’s the way I have to play. You have to go there to score goals.”
The Condors have won two straight in impressive fashion and Malone said they need to feed off that as they play three games in four days on home ice, starting with today’s Field Trip Day game at 10:30 a.m.
“We’ve gotta feel good about ourselves after those last two games,” Malone said. “At the same time, just like that four-game road trip (0-4), it’s in the rear-view mirror.
“We have to take that confidence with us this weekend. This is a huge three-game set for use before we go back on the road. We’re playing hard, executing at a high level. If we keep doing that the wins will come.”
Mike Griffith can be reached at 661 395-7390. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeGriffith54.