Happy Leclaire excited about season

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

If Pascal Leclaire is feeling the heat, it doesn’t show.

The Senators goalie was on the ice Thursday at the Bell Sensplex, preparing for training camp — which begins Sept. 17 at Scotiabank Place. Despite the pressure to be the team’s No. 1 goalie, he’s not worried.

Leclaire, 27, who will be paid $4.8 million this season and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is ready for the challenge he’ll face for playing time from Brian Elliott. His happy-go-lucky attitude hasn’t changed.

“I want it to be an awful year. I want to go pump gas next year,” Leclaire said jokingly to reporters. “It’s not the first time that it’s been a contract year for me. This is something I’ve been through four or five times.

“That’s something that is really far in my mind. I really believe that these things take care of themselves. That’s why we’ve got agents and stuff like that. I just want to focus, have fun with the teammates and, hopefully, have a good year in Ottawa.”

After replacing Elliott in the first-round playoff series against Pittsburgh, Leclaire had a standout 56-save performance in Game 5 before Ottawa lost the series in Game 6 at home.

“It’s a brand new season,” said Leclaire, who is sporting new Sherwood pads. “Whatever happened last season — good or bad — is gone. In sports, you have to prove yourself every year. It’s the same thing.

“There’s no added pressure or anything like that. I’m happy to be back and excited to play hockey. We think the end of (last year) gave us a good taste for what our team can achieve this year and maybe go a little bit further.”

Leclaire said he was pleased to get playoff action.

“You want to be put in those situations,” said Leclaire. “It was my first experience and it gave me a good taste.

“It doesn’t matter if you play well in the playoffs, you want the team to move on. I was as mad as everybody when we lost. As far as confidence, I’m a confident guy. I know what I can do.”

After being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2009 trade deadline while recovering from ankle surgery, Leclaire struggled with injuries last season.

He fractured his cheek after getting hit by a puck on the bench in December, then suffered a concussion from a puck to the head at a morning skate in New York in January.

Leclaire is able to joke about those bumps now.

“I had (some) bad luck that kind of got me out of my rhythm a little bit. Before I got hurt, I was starting to feel good,” said Leclaire. “It’s done. (The way the injuries happened) make good stories (at) barbecues and a lot of people laughed about it.”

With Rick Wamsley taking over as the Senators’ goalie coach, Leclaire is happy to see a familiar face.

“He’s a good guy. He’s going to help us a lot. He’s got a lot of experience,” said Leclaire, who worked with Wamsley in Columbus.


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