TORONTO - Scott Clemmensen was only a Maple Leaf for one season and three NHL games, but really made the most of them.
Looking to re-kindle his passion for the game in the summer of 2007, he left the New Jersey Devils and his near-irrelevent job as Martin Brodeur’s back-up to be the AHL Marlies’ ace-in-the-goal.
He played 40 games on the farm, the Marlies went three playoff rounds (remember the fuss about ‘ruining’ Justin Pogge?) and Clemmensen emerged with a new lease. He went back to Jersey and wound up playing half the year and has been on a one-way deal with the Florida Panthers since, as Tomas Vokoun’s back-up.
“Playing a lot with the Marlies was the key,” the big Iowan said Tuesday before his first start of the year against the Leafs. “I was feeling like a goaltender again. That really helped me when Marty went down the next year.”
While living in Toronto, Clemmensen’s wife gave birth to daughter Olivia, who is a dual citizen.
“This was a fun place to play,” Clemmensen said. “My first (Leaf) game was a shootout win over Tampa Bay. The crowd here really got you going. It was a great experience.”
Last March, Clemmensen came back to play the Leafs and was the winner in a 4-1 game. That, and a shootout loss as a Devil, gave him a 1.44 goals-against average versus Toronto.
“He’s earned this opportunity,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “He played well his last game here. He’s a good person and he had a good camp. Teams like ours need contributions from everybody.”
The Panthers were on a 3-1 run, up to Tuesday, after dropping the first two of the season, all with Vokoun in goal. Toronto is the start of a three game Eastern Canadian road trip after the Cats began October losing one-goal games to the Oilers and Canucks, before shutting out Calgary.
“We have a history of bad starts,” said DeBoer, whose team is trying to avoid a 10th straight season out of the playoffs, “but now we have six games to build on.”