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Leclaire moving closer to return

Senators goaltender targeting Dec. 23 game in Pittsburgh

Friday, 12.18.2009 / 12:23 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
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Leclaire moving closer to return
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It won't be much longer before goaltender Pascal Leclaire takes another pre-game warmup with his Senators teammates. Ottawa's starting goaltending is likely less than a week away from returning from a fractured cheekbone suffered Nov. 23 (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Check out the NHL's game notes for tonight's Ottawa-New Jersey matchup.

Not surprisingly, his mere presence on the ice during a game-day skate caused quite the stir.

But when the Ottawa Senators hit the ice at the Prudential Center tonight in Newark, N.Y. (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), it won't be Pascal Leclaire tending goal against the Devils. However, his surprising appearance on this quickie road trip is the surest sign yet that the Sens' starting stopper's recovery from a fractured cheekbone is almost complete.

So while it'll be Brian Elliott making his 14th straight start for the Senators tonight, Leclaire's return between the pipes is likely less than a week away. Both the goaltender and head coach Cory Clouston suggested earlier today that they're targeting the Dec. 23 game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

That would be a month to the day since Leclaire suffered the injury when struck by an errant puck on the Senators bench during their Nov. 23 game against the Washington Capitals.

"We’re hoping for the Pittsburgh game," said Leclaire. "Everything looks good, so we’ll see. If it’s not Pittsburgh, it’ll definitely be Buffalo (on Dec. 26).  It’ll be a coaching decision. Brian has been playing well, so I’ve got to make sure that when I come back, I’m ready and I can help the team. Then we’ll start from there."

Clouston had no plans to start Leclaire against the Devils but decided to bring him to Newark just to get a head start on working him back into game shape.

"It just gives him extra ice time with the guys. That’s the main thing," said Clouston. "We don’t have many guys back home that can give him any shots."

But with Leclaire's return just around the corner and forward Chris Neil (left knee) also a definite possibility for next week, at least the news is beginning to improve on the injury front. Forward Nick Foligno, the latest to go down, had successful arthroscopic surgery this morning to repair a small meniscus tear in his right knee. But he's not likely to be back until January.

"Two weeks is what we’re looking at, give or take a few days," said Clouston. "If the swelling is a little more (severe), it could be upwards of 17 or 18 days. If the swelling comes down quickly, it could be 10 days. But everything went very well."

"We’re hoping for the Pittsburgh game. Everything looks good, so we’ll see. If it’s not Pittsburgh, it’ll definitely be Buffalo (on Dec. 26). It’ll be a coaching decision. Brian has been playing well, so I’ve got to make sure that when I come back, I’m ready and I can help the team. Then we’ll start from there." - Pascal Leclaire
Meanwhile, Leclaire is itching to get back into the game. Getting a brief workout with his teammates today further buoyed his optimism.

"It’s good to start skating with the guys," said Leclaire. "I’ve been skating by myself for awhile, but it’s not the same. Those guys are quick and there’s the speed element. It doesn’t take long (to get used to it), but it’ll take a day or two to start feeling good again. But it’s fun."

There is also the matter of regaining the 10 pounds he's lost since being sidelined. In the first few weeks after suffering the injury, Leclaire couldn't eat much more than soup and yogurt but he's been working his way back to a much more regular diet in recent days.

"Now I’m starting to eat more proteins and meats," he said. "It’s funny to say, but I missed the fruits and vegetables. It was hard to bite for awhile, but now I’m all right.

"I’m still about seven or eight pounds away from where I’m used to being. It’ll probably take a couple of weeks to gain it back, but it is what it is."

Around the boards

Tonight's matchup represents the third meeting of the season between the Sens and Devils. New Jersey won the previous two, 3-2 at Scotiabank Place on Nov. 7 and 3-1 (including an empty-net goal) 18 days later in Newark ... The Senators lines during the pre-game skate: Milan Michalek-Jesse Winchester-Daniel Alfredsson, Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Jonathan Cheechoo, Peter Regin-Mike Fisher-Alex Kovalev and Chris Campoli-Ryan Shannon-Josh Hennessy ... Ottawa returns home Saturday to face the Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Fewer than 3,500 tickets remain for the Metro Family Game, with Metro 4 Packs including four hotdogs, four drinks and four tickets available for $99.

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