Leclaire doubles homecoming fun
Familiar buildings greet Sens goalie as he gears up for season
|Senators netminder Pascal Leclaire gets some instruction from goaltending coach Eli Wilson during the team's pre-game skate at Scotiabank Place on Friday morning.
And what a ride it's been already for the Ottawa Senators goaltender, who played in front of old friends Tuesday night at the Halifax Metro Centre, where he spent three seasons of junior hockey with the Mooseheads.
Now it's back to even more familiar home turf for Leclaire, who spends much of his off-season in Montreal. He's expected to play as much as two periods of tonight's matchup with the Canadiens (7:30 p.m., RDS, Team 1200).
"It’s actually a little different than going to Nashville and St. Louis all the time," Leclaire said with reference to his former pre-season routine with the Columbus Blue Jackets. "It’s been fun. Even in the exhibition games, when you go into these buildings ... the Canadian fans get into it. It’s better to play in those kinds of environments in the pre-season than in front of nobody. It definitely makes it more fun and kind of gears you up for the season.
"As far as me going back to Montreal, it’s always fun. My family will be there. I never got a chance to play there a lot in the last two years – only once – but it is a fun building and I’m looking forward to it."
Leclaire is also looking forward to playing in a full game for the first time since Dec. 18, 2008 (a 5-4 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars). The Senators' No. 1 goaltender, who played half of Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers in Halifax, figures he needs at least a couple of complete games before the pre-season is out.
"We’ve talked about it and I might play the full game Saturday (when the Canadiens visit Scotiabank Place) and go from there," he said. "I'd like to get at least a couple of games in before the season starts. That’s usually what we try to do. It’s the coaches' decision and they decide what kind of thought (process) they want to go with. But usually when you get at least a couple of games, it’ll be all right before the start."
The extra work is especially important after the long layoff that followed season-ending ankle surgery for Leclaire in February.
Senators head coach Cory Clouston agreed a heavier workload will benefit his goaltender.
"The only way he can get the rust out, get himself feeling good and get himself back in game shape is to play and play lots," said Clouston.
After a pair of losses to Florida, the Senators would like to get into the win column for the first time this pre-season tonight.
"We’ve haven’t won yet in the pre-season," said Leclaire. "They don’t count, but you still want to get some momentum out of the pre-season. It will be a good test for us and we’ll see where we’re at."
Around the boards
Here are the line combinations spotted at Friday morning's skate: Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson; Ilya Zubov-Peter Regin-Chris Neil; Chris Kelly-Jesse Winchester-Zack Smith; Christoph Schubert-Cody Bass-Jeremy Yablonski. Defence pairings: Alex Picard-Brian Lee; Chris Campoli-Matt Carkner; Geoff Kinrade-Jared Cowen ... Swedish rookie Robin Lehner is ticketed for at least one period of action tonight. "He’s deserving of it," said Clouston. He played very well in the rookie tournament, he’s carried that over to practices and the other night (in Halifax) he played very well."