Leclaire mulls weighty issue

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

NEWARK, N.J. — Pascal Leclaire has an extra belt notch to work with heading into the holiday season.

The Senators No. 1 goalie practised with his teammates Friday for the first time since breaking his cheekbone Nov. 25, then afterwards said it’ll be a slimmer and trimmer version of himself who meets either the targeted return date of Dec. 23 in Pittsburgh or the Boxing Day game in Buffalo.

Leclaire, who is listed as a 6-foot-2, 202-pounder, says he lost about 10 pounds during the 14 games he’s been out. He’s gained only about two or three of them back so far.

“The first week I just had soup and yogurt,” said Leclaire. “I don’t know, I’m nice and lean. Good time for Christmas, I guess.

“It is what it is,” he added, smiling. “Hopefully, I’m faster.”

Now, before any of you ladies start sending him your latest fancy desserts in an attempt to beef him up, know that Leclaire’s more interested in loading up on steak.

“I’ve just got to make sure I eat and put a little weight back on, and not the bad stuff,” he said. “When you lose a little weight, you have a little less energy. I’ve just got to make sure I start to eat more protein and stuff, like meat. Until last week, I wasn’t able to eat meat. And I like meat.”

Leclaire, who has an 8-5-1 record, a 2.71 GAA and a .901 save percentage, was on a bit of a roll before getting plucked by a puck while he sat on the bench backing up Brian Elliott in a game against Washington. He had won two consecutive games, giving up only a pair of goals in each, and had stopped 24-of-25 Buffalo shots through two periods before having to leave with a sore groin.

Friday, he was quickly reminded of what NHLers can do with a flick of their wrists.

“You guys shoot the puck better than Eli,” a grinning Leclaire told Daniel Alfredsson — referring to goalie coach Eli Wilson — as he entered the dressing room after the morning skate.

One of the shots even hit him in the face, but he survived the litmus test.

“I think they’re more worried if someone falls on me, or (an) elbow,” Leclaire said. “It’s more direct. It’s more like a punch in the face. I guess there’s an artery in the back ... I don’t know. They just want to make sure, because if it pops up again I’m going to have to get that surgery again and I’m out another month.”

Elliott was 7-6-1 in 14 consecutive starts before Friday night, with shutouts in two of his previous four starts. But there’s a reason Leclaire was brought in to be The Guy. With five more seasons of experience, he is expected to provide more consistency between the pipes.

“Brian’s been playing well,” said Leclaire. “I’ve got to make sure when I come back I’m ready, and I can help the team.”

He will.

Stops and starts

Rogers Sportsnet analyst Garry Galley dug himself up a nice trivia question while doing his pre-game work: Name one thing Martin Brodeur has been unable to accomplish in his 55 career outings vs. the Senators. “He doesn’t have a point,” Galley said proudly. “He doesn’t have a goal or an assist against Ottawa.” That tidbit died at 11:53 of the first period, when Brodeur claimed an apple on Jamie Langenbrunner’s power-play goal ... Nice first-period shift by Erik Karlsson saw the rookie stop the very dangerous Zach Parise on a 1-on-1, and then, a few seconds later, rip a hard slap shot Brodeur’s way. Anybody else notice the kid getting better every game? ... The Alex Kovalev you don’t see: At the morning skate he put a puck on his head before taking a faceoff with Ryan Shannon. So yeah, he’s having more fun in Ottawa than it looks.

Hamlet hero

Blackburn Hamlet’s Mark Fraser is settling in nicely on a Devils defence that coach Jacques Lemaire says has played well. “As the weeks go on, the confidence just continues to rise,” said Fraser, who entered the night with a goal, an assist, 15 PIMs and a plus-8 rating over the first 24 games. Fraser, a third-round pick, went to Gloucester High School and played in the Gloucester Rangers system. His family would have been watching last night’s game on TV, but the only member who gets a Cheapseats Shout-Out is his grandmother Dorothy Kennedy, an avid Sun reader. “Some of them claim there’s a tough allegiance to break every time we play Ottawa,” Fraser said after the morning skate. “But I like to hope the majority of them will be cheering for me and not the Senators (Friday night).” Fraser tested their loyalties with an assist on Brian Rolston’s second-period goal.


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