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'I'm a No. 1 guy:' Leclaire

Senators new goaltender wants his play to earn top status with team

Thursday, 05.03.2009 / 7:33 PM / Features
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
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\'I\'m a No. 1 guy:\' Leclaire
Pascal Leclaire meets with Ottawa media for the first time since the Senators acquired him Wednesday from the Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).
He’s already been anointed as the Ottawa Senators’ new main man between the pipes.

But Pascal Leclaire doesn’t just want to be handed the starting job when he arrives at Scotiabank Place for his first training camp with the team in September.

“I come in like anyone else,” Leclaire said earlier tonight during his first media conference in the capital since the Senators acquired him Wednesday from the Columbus Blue Jackets along with a 2009 second-round draft pick in exchange for Antoine Vermette. “I want to come in and play well and if I play well, I’ll get some ice time. I’ve never been the kind of guy who comes in and says ‘you’ve got to give it to me.’

“I’m going to come in and work hard and (as far as) playing time, ice time, that’s the coach’s decision. I believe in myself and I believe I can really come in and help the team. As far as games played and minutes played, it depends on how I play and it’s the coach’s decision.”

Clearly, though, the Senators aren’t bringing in Leclaire to be a backup, even though an ankle injury and the stellar play of rookie Steve Mason relegated him to that status in Columbus this season. Senators management fully expects it is getting the goaltender who pitched nine shutouts and posted a 2.25 goals-against average and .919 save percentage for the Blue Jackets in 2007-08.

So, too, does Leclaire, for that matter.

“I expect to come in and play (big) minutes like I was in Columbus,” said the 26-year-old native of Repentigny, Que. “I believe I’m a No. 1 guy in the league and I want to come in and play No. 1 minutes. But at the same time, I’ve got to deserve those minutes, too.”

At the moment, the big issue for Leclaire is the ankle, which required surgery six weeks ago to repair torn cartilage and remove a bone chip. He started walking without crutches last week, though he still wears a protective boot on the foot.

"I’ve never been the kind of guy who comes in and says ‘you’ve got to give it to me.' I’m going to come in and work hard and (as far as) playing time, ice time, that’s the coach’s decision. I believe in myself and I believe I can really come in and help the team." - Pascal Leclaire
“My timetable (for a full recovery) was about three months after the surgery, which brings me to about mid-April,” said Leclaire, clad in a black Sens jersey. “That’s the end of the year, which is why I don’t think I’ll play again this year. I’m going to probably meet with the surgeon in the next week or two and then he’s going to decide when I can take the boot off.”

Leclaire’s ankle woes began in pre-season, when he was run over by an opposing player during a Blue Jackets exhibition game. He started feeling major discomfort in November but put off having surgery, hoping to avoid the lengthy recovery time. But when Mason began to assume more of the Jackets’ goaltending duties, he opted to go under the knife.

Though he’s battled a somewhat lengthy string of injuries throughout his still-young career, Leclaire manages to keep a positive outlook about it all.

“It’s not like I go out there and decide to get hurt,” he said. “It’s been some bad luck but all you can do right now is take the time, make sure you heal properly and get back in shape. That’s all I can do right now.

“Even if I cry and say ‘I’m not lucky,’ that’s not going to solve the problem. It is what it is. You deal with it and you move on.”


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