Pascal Leclaire hopes to rebound after two horrid seasons

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for leclaireagain.jpgWhile appearing on The Program Podcast Wednesday, I discussed the Northeast Division and made some (tentative) predictions. When the Ottawa Senators came up, we all agreed that one of the team’s biggest weaknesses will probably be in net.

There’s nothing especially wrong with Brian Elliott, but let’s face it, he’s average at best on most nights. The team might be able to scrape by with the decidedly average* goalie, but deep down, many Sens fans (and probably a few suits) hope that Pascal Leclaire will “figure it out.”

*People assume “average” is an insult, but it’s not meant to be … to a point. Elliott really is making the most of his career and talents, so I don’t begrudge him for being so-so. That just happens to be the only honest way to describe him.

Glass half-full types will point to Leclaire’s breakout season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he went 24-17-6 with a 2.25 GAA, a 91.9 save percentage and an outstanding nine shutouts during the 2007-08. They might also point to the fact that he helped the Senators win a ridiculous three-OT game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs. Negative Nancys, however, will call it the “One Year Ken Hitchock Effect,” pointing to Steve Mason’s flash-in-the-pan rookie year and also the fact that Leclaire has been atrocious since then (88.7 save percentage in 09-10 and 86.7 in only 12 games during 08-09).

However you slice it, Leclaire admits that he needs to improve next season. He spoke to the Canadian Press about how he feels about 10-11.

But after having a full off-season to prepare, the native of Repentigny, Que., is back and ready to take another run at proving that he’s capable of being that guy, or at least something close to it.

“I worked hard during the summer and we’ll see what happens,” Leclaire said Friday from Scotiabank Place, where the Senators opened their training camp with medicals and fitness testing. “The injuries — you guys are going to have new questions this year because it’s always the same stuff. I’m going to repeat the same thing all the time. Things happen and I can deal with them as best as possible. It’s a new season every year, you always have to start over and this year’s no different.”

Unlike a year ago, when he was coming off ankle surgery that had kept him out for the better part of eight months leading up to his Ottawa debut, he’s had a full off-season to prepare and is ready to work with Brian Elliott, the player who took over the Senators’ No. 1 role during last season.

“The big thing is to be feeling good on the ice and in the last month or so, speaking for myself, I felt good out there, even if it’s only summer hockey,” said Leclaire.

Well, he’s not exactly promising the world, but this season could be a pivotal one for the highly paid (and highly disappointing) former Blue Jacket. The Senators are banking on Leclaire and Elliott to help them grind their way into the playoffs, so a healthy and focused would increase their chances substantially.

And, really, he can’t be much worse than he was in the last two seasons, right?

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    Price placed on injured reserve; Yakupov to miss 2-4 weeks with sprained ankle

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    Two injury updates in one post.

    First, the situation with Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was hurt last night versus the Rangers.

    According to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, Price has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. That means he’ll be out at least a week, though no exact timeline was provided.

    “We don’t know how long Carey will be out, but for us it’s business as usual,” said Therrien.

    Mike Condon will get the start tomorrow in New Jersey.

    As for Oilers forward Nail Yakupov, he’ll be out 2-4 weeks after spraining his ankle last night in Carolina while getting tangled up with a linesman.

    Getzlaf didn’t love the ‘dead’ atmosphere at Coyotes game

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    Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t impressed with at least two things last night in Arizona:

    1. His team’s performance in a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes.
    2. The atmosphere inside Gila River Arena, where the announced attendance was just 11,578.

    “It’s hard. When you come into a building … it’s dead,” Getzlaf told the O.C. Register. “Nothing against the fans. It’s hard to fill a big building like this and have the amount of people in it to build your energy. So you have to do it yourself. You have to be ready when you step on the ice. I thought we came out flat.”

    Anaheim’s record fell to 8-11-4 with the defeat.

    The Coyotes’ average attendance also fell, to 13,144 in eight games.

    Jarred Tinordi becomes the latest youngster to be sent to the AHL for ‘conditioning’

    Jarred Tinordi, Brendan Gallagher
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    Like Frank Corrado (see here), Tomas Jurco (see here), Stanislav Galiev (see here), and Patrik Nemeth (see here) before him, Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi is off to the AHL for a conditioning stint.

    Tinordi, 23, has yet to play a single game for the Habs this season; however, because he’s no longer exempt from waivers, the former first-round pick has remained on Montreal’s roster.

    It’s an issue that’s received a good deal of attention lately. Some believe the league should do something about it, lest more young players get “stuck” in the NHL.

    Tinordi will only be allowed to spend two weeks in St. John’s, as per the rules of his conditioning loan.

    Safe to say, if you’re an NHL general manager who thinks Tinordi still has potential, Marc Bergevin would welcome your best offer.

    Stars place Lehtonen on IR, call up Campbell and Nemeth

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    Kari Lehtonen will miss at least a few games with the upper-body injury he suffered the other night against Ottawa. The Dallas Stars announced today that they’ve placed the 32-year-old goalie on injured reserve, retroactive to Tuesday.

    With Lehtonen out, Jack Campbell has been called up from AHL Texas to be Antti Niemi‘s backup. The Stars host Vancouver Friday, with a game at Minnesota Saturday.

    Campbell, the 11th overall pick in the 2010 draft, has struggled in the AHL this season, going 3-3-0 with an .873 save percentage.

    The Stars have also recalled defenseman Patrik Nemeth after the 23-year-old completed his 14-day conditioning assignment.

    Related: Campbell credits ECHL stint for turning his game around