Leclaire plays waiting game
Ailing Senators goaltender isn't ready to face Caps tonight
|With Pascal Leclaire still sidelined by injury, Brian Elliott gets the start against the Washington Capitals tonight at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Pascal Leclaire isn't quite ready yet to stare down Alex Ovechkin and the high-octane attack of the Washington Capitals.
The Ottawa Senators goaltender has declared himself out for tonight's showdown with the Southeast Division-leading Caps at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Leclaire, who suffered a lower body injury in Saturday's 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabes, took the pre-game skate with his teammates earlier today but said afterward he needs "another 24 to 48 hours" of rest before returning to game action.
"I don’t think it’s too bad, but the next couple of days are going to be beneficial for it," said Leclaire. "(More rest) is going to help. I just want to make sure everything is okay. I don’t see anything serious at all.
"We’ll just take it day by day. Today was a lot better than it was Saturday night. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to go against New Jersey (on Wednesday in Newark)."
Leclaire was clearly in discomfort when the Sabres' Jochen Hecht landed on him during a second-period scrum in the Ottawa crease. He exited the game after 40 minutes and gave way to Brian Elliott, who'll start against the Capitals tonight.
"You always worry when it happens," said Leclaire, adding the injury is unrelated to the ankle he had season-ending surgery on last February. "You never want to get hurt but things happen quick and guys fall on you ... The next day, you feel a lot better and it clears your head. We have good (doctors and trainers) here to take care of us and that’s the main thing.
"I know I’m in good hands, so I’m not concerned at all. I just want to take the extra couple of days between games to make sure it’s okay and it doesn’t drag on any longer."
Elliott knows he'll face a supreme challenge tonight from the offensively potent Capitals but said it goes beyond Ovechkin, the two-time Hart Trophy winner who's already notched 16 goals in 17 games this season.
"There’s a lot of dangerous guys on the ice and they’re shooting from everywhere so as a goalie, you just have to be aware and be ready at any time," he said. "They’re very active at their points and with cross-ice passes and one-timers and such. You just have to be on your toes the whole game."
But clearly, the Senators will be most aware of No. 8 in white.
"It's going to be a good challenge," said Senators centre Mike Fisher. "(Ovechkin) has always played well against us and we've got to find a way to shut him down and get in his face and make it tough on him. We've got to be ready to play."
Added defenceman Filip Kuba: "He's got all the tools you can have. You start with a good gap on him and try not to give him that much room or set up for the big shot. You also try to block his shots."
"We’re just finding ways to win and we’ve got to keep rolling," said Fisher. "We knew we had to put some good games in because we’re going to be hitting the road and the schedule is going to get a lot tougher."
Senators head coach Cory Clouston likes the type of game his team has been displaying during their most difficult stretch of home games so far this season.
"We’re just playing the way we should be," he said. "We’re getting a lot more offence and a lot more traffic at the net. Every goal we scored (Saturday) night, we had one if not two bodies in front of the goaltender. We’re attacking more as units and we’re breaking out more as units. So we’re playing a lot more consistent. It’s not 10 minutes here and five minutes there."
Around the boards
Alex Kovalev, who headed home to Russia after Thursday's game for his mother-in-law's funeral, isn't likely to be back in time to face the Capitals tonight. But Clouston expects the veteran forward to be back in the lineup soon. "He’s still taking care of family matters," said Clouston. "We’ll give him as much time as he needs, but I can’t see it going more than another game. He's doubtful for tonight but probably (back) the next game (on Wednesday) ... Defenceman Anton Volchenkov (right elbow) joined his teammates for today's pre-game skate but said later he isn't likely to return to the lineup until the Senators start a five-game road trip Saturday in Boston. "It’s still tough to shoot the puck," he said. "I’ll get back soon, but I need a little bit more work. Maybe Saturday but it's not sure." ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for tonight's game.
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