The puck stops here

By the time Pascal Leclaire plays his first game for the Senators, he will have been out of action...

By the time Pascal Leclaire plays his first game for the Senators, he will have been out of action for 10 months. (Sun Media/Darren Brown)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Pascal Leclaire is most comfortable between the pipes.

That's a good thing because being relaxed isn't exactly how you would describe the Senators' goaltending situation over the years.

Leclaire, dealt to the Senators by the Blue Jackets for winger Antoine Vermette at last season's NHL trade deadline, is well aware of the history of netminders who haven't been able to get the job done before him, but the 26-year-old isn't worried.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with Sun Media yesterday at Scotiabank Place, Leclaire indicated he's fully recovered from ankle surgery he had last January to repair ligament damage and he's looking forward to the challenge of getting the Senators back to the playoffs.

"To me you've got to be good everywhere, if you want to stay in (the NHL). It doesn't matter if you're in Ottawa or in Phoenix, where there's not a lot of people in the stands and the attention isn't as great. Either way, you've got to be good for your team," said Leclaire.

"If you want a long career, you have to play well. It's not really pressure. There's a lot of people following you and they're going to talk about you a lot more, but I grew up in Montreal. I know how it is. I know the dos and the don'ts. I've seen how guys handle themselves around the city.

"I guess the play is going to speak for everything. I'm going to try to get back in there and do the best I can. If I do the normal stuff that I do, I'll be in good shape."

By the time Leclaire, who will make $3.6 million US this season, steps on the ice for the season opener against the Rangers on Oct. 3 in New York, it will have almost been 10 months since he started an NHL game.

The road back from the surgery has been long one.

But the good news is Leclaire is feeling fine. A big step for him was getting back on the ice with his new teammates with a week left in the season in April to test out his ankle. It helped his confidence and his frame of mind heading into summer training.

"We pushed it pretty hard to make sure it was okay and to make sure I could have a clear mind going into the summer," said Leclaire. "We wanted to make sure I didn't have any issues coming back and I felt fine then. I don't really think about it.

"I know a lot of people are going to talk about (the surgery). That's normal because I missed a lot of time with it. But for me, what we did at the end of the year was able to help me clear my head. I've just been going through a normal summer getting ready. There's some stuff I can't do any more because they took cartilage and bones out, but overall I donít think about it."

Leclaire makes his off-season home in Montreal, but he's going to be in Ottawa regularly between now and the opening of training camp on Sept. 12. He plans on skating with Atlanta and ex-Senators centre Todd White and some other local pros in August to get ready for training camp.

"You always try to be better every year. I'm no different than anybody else," said Leclaire. "The big thing for me is to make sure that I'm recovered from that foot injury and I'm ready for camp. I feel good. Thatís the big thing."


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