EDMONTON — Pascal Leclaire hopes his roller-coaster of a season is about to hit a nice, flat stretch.
The Senators goaltender doesn’t know whether he or Brian Elliott will start Tuesday against the Oilers at Rexall Place as Ottawa opens a three-game Western Canada road swing, but Leclaire served notice in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs that his season is far from dead.
Coming off a 30-save performance less than 48 hours after being pulled when he gave up two goals on five shots against the Hurricanes on Thursday, Leclaire knows there are ups and downs during an NHL season.
“It changes quick in hockey. One day you’re a zero, then you’re a hero and the next day you’re a zero again,” said Leclaire. “It can go back and forth like that for a long time. I know what I can do and I’ve been doing it for a long time and I’m not worried about myself.
“Everybody goes through ups and downs in seasons and their career. I know I’m worth. I know what I can do. That’s what I focus on more than anything else.”
Asking Senators coach Cory Clouston to tip his hand on how he’ll use his goalies is akin to asking for state secrets.
There was concern about Leclaire after Clouston was quick to give him the hook in Carolina.
Leclaire hasn’t won a game since Dec. 31, but there were plenty a numbered of eyebrows raised when he wasn’t given time in Raleigh to get his game back on track.
“Gee, it worked out though, didn’t it?” said an annoyed Clouston. “The focus was on myself and (not) Pascal. (If) he used it to motivate him, that’s excellent. That was the game we needed him to play (against Toronto). He was there for us, especially early. He made a couple of key saves when they had some chances.
“He was really good for us early and really good toward the end when we got tired and took a couple of penalties. That’s what we need from him and that’s what we’re going to continue to need from him or (Elliott).
“If it was motivation to shove it you know where, that’s perfect. I’m okay with that. He knows we do things to win. His game (is) to help the team win. He’s a team guy and he showed he is a team guy by his performance.”
Clouston maintained he has never lost confidence in Leclaire, who has missed 24 games this season because of injuries (The first after getting hit by a wayward puck while sitting on the bench. The other when he took a shot in the head during a morning skate in New York).
“I’ve always believed in him. I’ve never said once I didn’t believe in him,” said Clouston. “It’s been tough for him, a tough season with the injuries and fluke puck in the face. Those types of things have really set him back, but not once have I ever said I don’t believe in this guy.”
Leclaire said getting back on track is important.
“I felt good. We had a pretty sick team on Saturday night and just to get that point was good,” said Leclaire. “It’s been a while since I’ve played a full game and I felt pretty decent. Hopefully, we can start from there.”