A proper attitude is essential for any player,
but it won't keep you in the game
very long. Unless you're Billington, who has made a nice career out of
caddying for front-line goaltenders and doesn't seem to mind the backup role
that might frustrate other players.
How else can you explain how Billington
can sit for extended periods of time,
then come off the bench and perform as if he's a regular? He rarely displays
rust, a testament to conditioning. The scoreless stretch of 139 minutes, 1
second that ended on Long Island is proof of his readiness.
Billington's willingness to accept his backup
role -- and to do whatever the
organization needs him to do to help Kolzig -- has kept him in the league for
11 seasons. He had his chance as a regular -- playing 63 games for Ottawa in
1993-94 -- but hasn't appeared in more than 27 games in a season since.
At 5-foot-10, Billington doesn't have Kolzig's
size but compensates for that
with swift lateral movement across the goal line and cat-quick reflexes. The
fact Billington might not see any game action over a two-week span makes his
mostly flawless mechanics more impressive.
Like any other goalie, Billington is only
as good as the defense in front of him.
But his team-first attitude causes a trickle-down effect to the other players.
Billington is such a hard worker and positive locker room influence that
defensemen feel they've let him down when they leave him exposed.
Like most career backups, Billington doesn't
let himself get too settled in one
place. Washington is his fifth team, and because clubs can protect only one
goalie in the expansion draft next year that will stock Columbus and
Minnesota, Billington could be changing addresses again.