Defiant Leclaire says he's not done as NHLer

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 PM ET

Pascal Leclaire appeared in the Senators’ dressing room for the final time Friday, then walked out the door on crutches.

He leaves the team in the same condition he arrived from the Columbus Blue Jackets: Recovering from surgery.

Leclaire, who was traded to Ottawa on March 4, 2009, after having an ankle procedure while with the Jackets, faced the Ottawa media one last time after having hip surgery last Monday in Vail, Colo.

Leclaire sounded confident about making a full recovery, but he was downright defiant when it was suggested his injury-riddled pro career could be finished.

“Right now, I’m going to fix my leg — that’s the most important thing,” said Leclaire, who is in the final year of a three-year, $11.8-million contract he signed while with Columbus. “After that, we’ll figure something out. I have a lot of confidence in (agent) Don Meehan.

“I haven’t become a bad goalie because I got hurt. I was playing pretty well this year. Fix the leg. I’ll find a place to go and, for sure, somebody will sign me and we’ll go from there.”

Leclaire might be alone in that thinking. His road back to the NHL could be a lot longer than his recovery from the surgery he just had. He’s got plenty of talent, but he has never been able to stay healthy.

He bristled at the suggestion that no NHL team will take a chance on him.

“I haven’t thought about (his future) at all,” said Leclaire. “I’ll fix my leg and I’m really confident I’ll find a place to play in the NHL.

“I still see myself as an NHL goalie and I don’t care if a couple of (media) guys don’t think so. I think so. I know I’ll be back.”

Leclaire was playing all right until he pulled up lame and forced Brian Elliott to start only an hour before a game in Denver on Dec. 17. Leclaire ended up missing more games than he played with Ottawa.

The 28-year-old said there’s nothing he can do about the fact he couldn’t stay healthy in his short tenure with the Senators.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s something that’s out of my control,” he said. “I would have loved to have come here and played 60 games or 70 games a season, but that didn’t happen because I got hurt. We’ll move on. There’s not a whole lot I can do.”

Leclaire said he was happy with the way he was playing before this latest setback.

“I have no issue with the way I was playing this year before I got hurt,” said Leclaire, who had a 4-7-1 record with a 2.38 GAA this season. “Craig (Anderson) came in and played really well. (Elliott) was working hard. We all had a tough stretch. I don’t think it was a great season for anybody.

“It’s easy to point fingers at one guy or two guys, but hockey is a team game. Everybody goes as far as the team goes.”

OVECHKIN ON TRACK

There was no sign of the great No. 8 in Ottawa Friday night.

But Alexander Ovechkin is expected to return to the Capitals' lineup before the playoffs.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said Ovechkin, who missed his second straight game to rest an undisclosed injury, has been skating in Washington and could be playing again by next week.

Boudreau said Ovechkin's play has been solid of late.

"I think we've seen the Ovie that we used to see for the last six weeks," said Boudreau. "People forget, he might not have 60 goals, (but) he's fifth in the league in scoring and first in game-winning goals. We're not scoring as much as a team. Ratio-wise he's doing just fine.

"When he comes back early next week, he'll be playing the same way as when he left. And, when he left, he got two assists against New Jersey and we won 3-0."

C'EST WHAT?

"There's been a lot of external pressure about what's wrong with the Caps this year. I think the Caps are doing just fine, as I've been telling everybody." -- Coach Bruce Boudreau on Washington going into the playoffs.

THINGS I THINK I THINK

Ranked 30th in NHL history with a record of just 18-32 in shootouts after Thursday's 2-1 victory over the Rangers, the Senators may have finally found a formula for success. G Craig Anderson, who stopped five shooters in New York, has eight straight shootout wins dating back to December 2009 ... Daniel Alfredsson will board the club's charter to Atlanta on Saturday and is expected to suit up during the team's three-game road trip ... Now that he's back in the lineup, expect to see Milan Michalek play for the Czech Republic at the world championship. He confirmed he has spoken with the Czech coaching staff and as long as his return from a broken foot goes smoothly, he'll play ... Referees Stephane Auger and Kelly Sutherland had the Caps steaming. First, they put Ottawa D David Hale in the penalty box for high-sticking Matt Hendricks. Then, they decided Hale didn't high-stick Hendricks and took him out. Looked like Caps coach Bruce Boudreau swore more than he did during that HBO 24/7 series ... I never minded the old Capitals: At least they scored a lot. They just couldn't get it done in the playoffs.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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