Leclaire looking for early action

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Pascal Leclaire is starting to feel at home in Ottawa.

But he'll also be in familiar surroundings tonight in Halifax, where the Senators open their exhibition schedule against the Florida Panthers.

Leclaire will be facing his first competition since Dec. 18, 2008 when he suited up for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Leclaire, 26, who was dealt to Ottawa last March, played three seasons of junior hockey with the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads — from 1999-2001.

Coming off January ankle surgery that kept him out for the balance of the season, Leclaire is expected to play for 30 minutes against the Panthers. Rookie Robin Lehner, who was impressive during the rookie camp, will dress as the backup.

Leclaire finished with a 4-6-1 record in 12 appearances and a 3.83 goals-against average last season after trying to play through an injury he suffered in an exhibition game.

“I'm looking forward to just playing some games,” said Leclaire. “I haven’t played in eight months. It's almost going to be a little weird. I’m really going to have to use those next couple of weeks to get ready.

“I want to make sure I’m ready for when the season starts. To do that, it’s going to be important for me to play in some pre-season games. I need to get some kind of rhythm back. The second will probably be better than the first one. The third will probably be better than the second. It’s going to take a couple of games, but so far, so good on the ice.”

Leclaire, who was dealt by the Mooseheads to the Montreal Rocket for his final season in junior, said he’s looking forward to playing in Halifax.

“It’s going to be fun. I talked to the family I used to billet with and they’re excited because they don’t get the chance to see me play very often,” said Leclaire. “I had a good time going back at the world championships two years ago. It’s great crowds and a fun rink. It’s good that I’ll have the chance to go back. It doesn’t happen all the time.”

Not wasting time

The Senators are getting down to business quickly. After facing the Panthers tonight, both clubs will fly to Ottawa to face off at Scotiabank Place tomorrow night. The Senators will then play back-to-back games against the Canadiens Friday in Montreal and Saturday in Ottawa. The club only has six pre-season games and will likely be down to its roster by the time Ottawa closes its exhibition schedule on Sept. 25 against the Boston Bruins at home. “The other teams are in the same situation so it’s no different (for them),” said Senators coach Cory Clouston. “It’s very quick. There’s no time to maybe familiarize yourself with some lines. With the Olympics, everything is kind of compressed as far as time is concerned and we’ve just got to make the best of the situation.”

Making decisions

The Senators shed nine players from their roster yesterday, cutting down to 46 players. Four blueliners — Paul Baier, Mat Robinson, Craig Schira and Kyle Wharton and five forwards — Jason Bailey, Keegam Dansereau, Kaspars Daugavins, Matt Lowry and Brandon Svensen — were sent to the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton yesterday. That leaves six goalies, 12 defencemen and 28 forwards in camp. The Senators are expected to make more decisions after Saturday’s visit by the Habs.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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