EDMONTON ó Pascal Leclaire hopes his roller-coaster of a season is about to hit a nice, flat stretch.
The Senators goaltender doesnít 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 Saturdayís 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.
ďIt changes quick in hockey. One day youíre a zero, then youíre a hero and the next day youíre a zero again,Ē said Leclaire. ďIt can go back and forth like that for a long time. I know what I can do and Iíve been doing it for a long time and Iím not worried about myself.
ďEverybody goes through ups and downs in seasons and their career. I know Iím worth. I know what I can do. Thatís what I focus on more than anything else.Ē
Asking Senators coach Cory Clouston to tip his hand on how heíll 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 hasnít won a game since Dec. 31, but there were plenty a numbered of eyebrows raised when he wasnít given time in Raleigh to get his game back on track.
ďGee, it worked out though, didnít it?Ē said an annoyed Clouston. ďThe focus was on myself and (not) Pascal. (If) he used it to motivate him, thatís 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.
ďHe was really good for us early and really good toward the end when we got tired and took a couple of penalties. Thatís what we need from him and thatís what weíre going to continue to need from him or (Elliott).
ďIf it was motivation to shove it you know where, thatís perfect. Iím okay with that. He knows we do things to win. His game (is) to help the team win. Heís a team guy and he showed he is a team guy by his performance.Ē
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).
ďIíve always believed in him. Iíve never said once I didnít believe in him,Ē said Clouston. ďItís 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 donít believe in this guy.Ē
Leclaire said getting back on track is important.
ďI felt good. We had a pretty sick team on Saturday night and just to get that point was good,Ē said Leclaire. ďItís been a while since Iíve played a full game and I felt pretty decent. Hopefully, we can start from there.Ē