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Senators get Christmas bonus

Donovan makes surprising early return to lineup against Pens

Wednesday, 23.12.2009 / 1:21 PM / Features
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
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Senators get Christmas bonus
Pascal Leclaire moves back into the spotlight as the Senators' starting goaltender tonight in Pittsburgh against the Penguins (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).
Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Pittsburgh matchup.

The news just keeps getting better on the injury front for the Ottawa Senators.

When the Senators hit the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena tonight (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200), Shean Donovan will make a stunning early return to the lineup less than five weeks after tearing two ligaments in his right knee.

Call it a Christmas bonus of sorts for the Senators, who were already enthused about welcoming goaltender Pascal Leclaire and forward Chris Neil back into the fold after extended absences due to injuries. Donovan, who was sidelined after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Matt Cooke in a Nov. 20 game against — ironically enough — these same Penguins, was originally expected to be on the shelf until sometime in January.

Instead, he wore a gap-toothed grin earlier today as he talked about rejoining his teammates for their last game prior to the two-day Christmas break. It's another welcome addition for the Senators (18-14-4), who stand seventh in the Eastern Conference and face a stern test against the hot defending Stanley Cup-champions (25-11-1, fourth in East).

"It's nice to get back in and be part of the team and try to get a big win here," said Donovan, who's anxious for his first shift in awhile. "It's felt like it's been a long time. I don't know how far ahead (of schedule) I am, but I feel good and that's the main thing. I'm just pretty excited to get back in. It'll be fun."

Senators head coach Cory Clouston had been closely monitoring Donovan's progress since the veteran forward began practising with the team late last week. Once head athletic therapist Gerry Townend and the Sens' medical team gave him the green light, Clouston didn't hesitate to add Donovan back into the mix.

"It's nice to get back in and be part of the team and try to get a big win here. It's felt like it's been a long time. I don't know how far ahead (of schedule) I am, but I feel good and that's the main thing. I'm just pretty excited to get back in. It'll be fun." - Shean Donovan
"This morning, we talked with Gerry and the medical guys and with Shean, and everything seems to be fine," Clouston said after the Senators' pre-game skate. "He'll wear a knee brace, but that's not necessarily (to support) the MCL anyways. His MCL healed as quick or quicker than I expected and he wants to play and he's ready to play and he'll help us out.

"Getting (Donovan and Neil) back should give us some energy and add a bit more size and grit to the team, which is always a good thing on the road."

Leclaire, for his part, expects the offensively-potent Penguins to test him early and often. But that just might be the right tonic for a goaltender who hasn't played since Nov. 21 while he waited for a fractured cheekbone to heal.

"It sometimes helps a little bit when you get busy early. It helps you get into the game," said Leclaire, who has yet to play at Mellon Arena in his five-year National Hockey League career. "I'll react to whatever comes to me. But I'm fine. I felt really good this morning in practice.

"I've never played here, so it'll be fun, too."

Around the boards

The Senators lines for tonight based on the pre-game skate: Milan Michalek-Peter Regin-Daniel Alfredsson, Jonathan Cheechoo-Mike Fisher-Alex Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil and Shean Donovan-Jesse Winchester-Ryan Shannon ... The return of Donovan ends blueliner Chris Campoli's four-game run as a fill-in forward and he'll be a healthy scratch tonight. "He's done very well," Clouston said of Campoli's new role. "You can't ask a whole lot more from him. He's given us some good minutes. It's not an easy task changing positions like that." ... The Russians will name their Olympic team on Christmas Day, with Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov and forward Alex Kovalev among the candidates to make the roster. Both have previous Winter Games experience, with Kovalev earning gold (1992) and bronze (2002) medals ... The Senators next see action on Saturday, facing off against the Sabres in Buffalo (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200).


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STANDINGS

ATLANTIC DIVISION
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
3 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
4 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
5 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
6 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
7 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
8 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Karlsson 82 20 54 -15 74
J. Spezza 75 23 43 -26 66
K. Turris 82 26 32 22 58
C. MacArthur 79 24 31 12 55
B. Ryan 70 23 25 7 48
A. Hemsky 75 13 30 -15 43
M. Michalek 82 17 22 -25 39
M. Zibanejad 69 16 17 -15 33
M. Methot 75 6 17 0 23
P. Wiercioch 53 4 19 -1 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Anderson 25 16 8 .911 3.00
R. Lehner 12 15 6 .913 3.06