Leclaire gets yanked around

DON BRENNAN, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:23 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. — It was only last Monday that coach Cory Clouston said he wanted to get both Senators goalies “playing with confidence” before the playoffs.

How can Pascal Leclaire have any left now?

Making his first start since Jan. 12, Leclaire was yanked at 6:23 of the first period with the Hurricanes leading 2-0 on just five shots.

Leclaire should not have shouldered the blame.

Before the first goal, defenceman Brian Lee fell down, allowing Tom Kostopoulos a clear path to the net. Leclaire made the first save off Kostopoulos’ backhand, but could not stop the shot that followed on the rebound.

Before the second goal, Chris Kelly failed to control a bouncing puck in front of the net. It went to Rod Brind’Amour, who slid a backhand under Leclaire’s pads.

Maybe it should have been stopped. If Clouston thought so, that means his leash on Leclaire was one goal long.

“We needed a shakeup, but we needed (Leclaire) to be better as well,” said Clouston.

Is he concerned about his goalie’s confidence?

“Yeah, obviously that’s a concern. But we’re also trying to win games, and we felt at that particular time our guys needed a kick in the pants.”

Asked if he considered taking a timeout rather than pulling Leclaire, Clouston said: “No, we did the right move.”

Leclaire was stunned. As he sat in the chair reserved for visiting goalies — by himself, across the ice from the bench — you could almost see the steam coming out from under his collar.

“You’d like to have the chance to battle it out, but it’s a coaching decision,” he said.

Was he surprised to be pulled so early?

“A little bit, usually 2-0 ... there’s not a whole lot to say. Cory decided that maybe it was better for the team to make the change, get a spark or something. I don’t know.”

It matters not that Elliott played well in relief. He’s a second-year goalie who has never experienced NHL playoffs. He might need some help down the road. There are only 17 games left and Leclaire needs to see some action. He needs some confidence.

But Clouston has ensured that the next time Leclaire does go between the pipes, he will be thinking he’s one mistake from being benched.

Tough way to play the game, don’t you think?

Starts and stops

It was Eric Staal Bobblehead Night at RBC Center, but there was something missing from the statue. There was no shiny new piece of jewelry. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, to win Olympic gold in your home country,” said Staal. He’s not sure where he’ll keep the medal. His parents want it for their home in Thunder Bay, but Staal said “it might stay with me.” Getting it to Carolina was a bit of a problem, though. “It kind of caught the (customs) lady working behind the counter a little off-guard, coming through the X-ray machine. She was pretty happy after figuring out what it was. It was pretty cool.” ... One of the reasons Clouston has made Shean Donovan a healthy scratch 21 times this season — including the last 13 games before making Jesse Winchester the designated sitter Thursday in Carolina — has to be the fact that it’s an easy move to make. Donovan is quick with a big grin and keeps a positive attitude whether he’s playing or not. “It’s been a while, for sure,” said the veteran winger, who also missed 17 games with a knee injury before Christmas, said after learning he was getting in the lineups. “It was not good not playing, but it was good to give the leg a rest. It feels really good.” Asked how he maintains the proper frame of mind through the rejections, Donovan said: “I think you’ve got to be just ready like you’re going to play. Then that’s easy. So when you’re out there and you bag skate (at the end of the morning warmup), you work hard and you just act like the next game you’re going to be in. You stay in shape, you stay ready and you stay on edge, because you have to whenever you’re going to be thrown in there.” That, kids, is being a good teammate ...

Things I think I think

Some say the Maple Leafs were reduced to an AHL-calibre team with the trades GM Brian Burke made at the deadline. But how can you not be excited about Saturday’s Toronto-Ottawa game at SBP? In fact, the signs have been up in spots like Carleton Place’s Thirsty Moose for a while now: “Carkner-Orr, Round 4.” Yup, three fights between Matt Carkner and Colton Orr this season, and each time one of the big men has gone down. Cheapseats says: Don’tcha dare miss it. “Big Country” wants to even the score ... Jarkko Ruutu blames the team’s equipment staff for having the words “Big Sexy” on the shafts of all his sticks. Likely story, isn’t it?

Bidding or ‘Begging’

At the morning skate, former Senator D-man Brian Pothier was his usual upbeat self despite being traded from the No. 1 team in the league to a cellar-dweller — and getting only an hour sleep after driving all night from Washington to Carolina. “It’s exciting to play on a team that’s vying for the Presidents’ Trophy, but ... (it’s) is a good opportunity to come to an exciting young team and try to contribute.” Pothier still carries a dry wit, too. Working on the final months of a multi-year contract, it was mentioned the bidding for his services will begin soon. “More like the begging,” he said, meaning his own.


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