NEWARK, N.J. — The puck put a dent in Pascal Leclaire’s cheek, but not in his funny bone.
The Senators goaltender will be lost for at least a month with a fractured cheek bone after he was hit by an errant puck while sitting at the end of the Senators bench during the club’s 4-3 overtime win over Washington Monday.
When asked if he would wear his mask when he was backing up from now on, he replied: “Or maybe a construction helmet.”
Leclaire, who also sustained a lower-body injury Saturday, will visit a surgeon Wednesday. He needs to have a small fracture repaired and will likely require some cosmetic surgery, as well.
“Maybe I’ll look at some calf or ab (abdominal) implants, too. I’ll have to see what’s cool in Hollywood now and make my choice,” he joked.
The Senators recalled goaltender Mike Brodeur from their AHL farm club in Binghamton and he practised with the club Tuesday before they boarded their charter for New Jersey, where they will face the Devils Wednesday night.
What else could Leclaire do but laugh it off?
The freak accident adds to Leclaire’s list of injuries (he’s twice had seasons ended by surgery when he played for the Columbus Blue Jackets, including last season when he had his ankle repaired).
“I was hoping for an injury-free year,” said Leclaire, who has an 8-5-1 record with a 2.71 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. “It’s disappointing, totally bad luck. I don’t know the odds. If you see it the other way, it could have hit me in the eye. Sitting on the bench and getting a puck in the face is something I’ll laugh about in 20 years.”
Or make the rest of us laugh with his one-liners.
Leclaire said he never saw the puck, which came off the stick of Senators centre Mike Fisher.
“I was talking to one of the trainers, chit-chatting, and it hit me like a baseball bat. I was dazed for a while, but I didn’t (pass out). It was a pretty good blow.”
The starter’s job will now fall to 24-year-old Brian Elliott, who has played solidly when called upon this season. He has a 4-1-2 record with a 2.19 goals-against average. He’ll benefit from having started the majority of games for the Senators down the stretch last season when Martin Gerber’s game went off the rails and he was waived. Elliott had a 16-8-3 record last season with a 2.77 goals-against average in 31 appearances.
“The experience last year will help me. Every time on the ice, I feel more comfortable and confident. Hopefully, that will resonate with the rest of the guys and they will play well in front of me,” he said.
“When an opportunity pops up, you have to take advantage of it. We’ve got a long stretch with a lot of games in not a lot of days.”
Senators coach Cory Clouston said Elliott just has to keep doing what he’s doing.
“Don’t change a thing,” he said. “He’s poised and he’s played very well. He’s come in pressure situations and he’s responded very well.”
There’s never a good time for an injury, but Leclaire had been telling friends he was anxious and really looking forward to facing his old club, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who visit Scotiabank Place Thursday night.
“It would have been fun to play them. I have a lot of friends on that team, but what can you do?” said Leclaire. “I’m still hoping to see the guys a bit after I see the doctor. I’ll get him to fix my look and we’ll see.”