Clouston keeps Sens goalies guessing

Ottawa Senators' Pascal Leclaire lets in a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. (REUTERS/Tim...

Ottawa Senators' Pascal Leclaire lets in a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. (REUTERS/Tim Shaffer)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 PM ET

Its mid-November in Ottawa, so something must be wrong with the Senators goaltending.

At issue is the recent play of Pascal Leclaire, who turned in a particularly grim performance especially in the third period in a 5-1 loss to the Flyers on Thursday in Philadelphia.

(Hes been) inconsistent. We need more from him, said Senators coach Cory Clouston. For the most part, the games that weve won, hes been there for us. Its pretty simple: When hes been there, the chances of us winning are pretty good and, for the most part, hes made some timely saves in our wins.

The last little while he has almost been the opposite, (allowing) goals that have lost some of the momentum for us. Its a long season. Hes a battler. Hes got kinks to work out, but hell be good.

Since Clouston doesnt announce his starter until game day, its anyones guess wholl start Saturday against the Rangers.

Leclaire, however, was the last one off the ice following a one-hour workout, which means backup Brian Elliott will likely start for the first time since he lost 5-2 to the Lightning on Oct. 29.

Leclaire has started 13 of Ottawas 16 games, posting an average 6-5-1 record with a 2.89 GAAand .892 save percentage.

At the start of the season, Leclaire, acquired in a trade from the Blue Jackets last February for forward Antoine Vermette (who had three goals and nine assists in 17 games heading into last nights play with Columbus), was getting plenty of pats on the back. Now, hes facing a lot of criticism because he hasnt been sharp lately:

- He didnt look good on the opening goal by the Flyers. He misplayed a puck in the trapezoid and Phillys Blair Betts ended up putting it home.

- In a 4-3 shootout victory Tuesday over Edmonton, Leclaire was spectacular, at times, but gave up a weak five-hole goal to Gilbert Brule, allowing the Oilers to tie the game the third period.

The Senators cant afford those miscues if they hope to stay in contention for a playoff spot.

The last week, Ive had some ups and downs, but thats going to happen, said Leclaire. The most important thing is to stay positive and try to learn from your mistakes. Its a long season. Im not worried at all.

Im always a positive guy. I have a tendency to forget pretty quick. Thats my personality. I dont do anything special (to try to get out of a funk). Since Ive been a kid, I dont really worry about things too much. Whatever is done is done. You dont have any control over it and you cant really change it. Im just going to go look ahead.

The players havent lost faith in Leclaire.

Its a team effort, said winger Chris Neil. Everbody has been on Pascal with all the questions (he faced Friday). Hes played well for us. You cant say enough about that. If he gets on a roll here, its going to be fun for everyone to watch. Every time hes in the net, he gives us a chance to win.

Clouston said goalies go through different stretches during a season.

Theres times when the puck looks like the size of a beach ball and theres times when it looks like the size of a pea, said Clouston. Its a matter of (Leclaire) just finding that structure, that comfortable position and just being poised. For the most part, weve seen that.

Its fallen off a little bit lately. Our team, if the goaltender isnt playing quite as well, we need to be a little bit stronger in front of him.


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