Scoring woes haunt Leclair

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:57 PM ET


  The struggles of John LeClair did not need to be illustrated further yesterday, but it happened anyway.

 LeClair, one of the few Philadelphia Flyers who decided to go on the ice for an optional practice at the Flyers' facility in Voorhees, N.J., promptly rang a backhander off the crossbar of a net in which no goalie stood.

 When you own zero goals and one assist in nine playoff games, crossbars and goalposts might as well be 10 feet high and 10 feet wide.

 "It's frustrating when you have trouble scoring, especially at a crucial time, but you try to forget about it," LeClair said. "I don't feel pressure from (coach Ken Hitchcock) or the media. I know what I have done out there and I know what's going on. There's pressure you put on yourself because you want to perform and get the job done."

 Truth be told, LeClair's post-season woes are at the point where they're like that irritating cough that won't go away. Nearly three years ago, LeClair signed a five-year, $45-million US contract. The 34-year-old Vermont native has 40 playoff goals in his career, but just three of those have come in the past four springs, including this one.

 Hitchcock pointed out that LeClair had to wade through back and shoulder injuries in recent years, but also noted the big winger was healthy this season and had 23 goals in 75 games in the regular season. Hitchcock stresses defence first and, in his mind, LeClair was better in Game 4. But players aren't paid $9 million a year to create chances while performing sound defensively. These guys have to score.

 "I'm sure John feels snakebitten," Hitchcock said, after pausing to come up with the right adjective. "To me, the playoffs are the gauge (of a player's value). It's the elevation of work (that's paramount). What we need is to have our best players elevate their work and if we do that, good things will happen. (The Leafs)have done that and now we have to respond."

 As all players who are in droughts will do, LeClair grasps to the fact he is getting scoring chances. Believe him, though, he would love to take it one step higher.

 "It's just a matter of giving it a little extra or getting a bounce or whatever it takes," LeClair said. "But chances aren't good enough. That's the bottom line."


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