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Season-saving path nothing new for Clemmensen

Friday, 02.03.2012 / 11:48 AM / NHL Insider

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent

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Season-saving path nothing new for Clemmensen
Clemmensen once again thrust into starting role -- and responding.
SUNRISE, Fla. — Between former Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore and top prospect Jacob Markstrom, it was easy to overlook Scott Clemmensen in the Florida Panthers goalie troika.

But as the Panthers begin their second-half push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2000, it's Clemmensen who is manning the crease. And he is stealing points for Florida in the process.

Exhibit A: At Winnipeg on Jan. 21. Panthers were outshot 44-23 but pulled out a 4-3 shootout victory. Exhibit B: Home game against Vancouver  on Jan. 9 where Clemmensen stopped all 14 third-period shots he faced in a 2-1 victory.

"I don't think there's much to say, he stopped everything," Panthers center Marcel Goc said after the Vancouver game. "He was there when we needed him. We know we can count on him every night."

Scott Clemmensen
Goalie - FLA
RECORD: 7-2-5
GAA: 2.67 | SVP: 0.915
The 34-year-old veteran is 4-1-3 in his past eight games with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. He has started six of the past eight games for the Panthers and again figures to get the  call Friday night at home against Winnipeg in a key Southeast Division showdown as Theodore continues to nurse a knee injury.

Clemmensen clearly is relishing the opportunity.

"Anytime you get an opportunity to play, you've got to make the most of it," said the Des Moines, Iowa, native. "It's a situation I've been in before in the past. This is my livelihood. You want to be in there, you want to be playing, you want to be contributing, you want to be playing well. That's how you extend your career. The main thing is to get in there and play well. If you play well, everything takes care of itself."

Ironically, it was Clemmensen who was dealing with an injury when Florida began the regular season. He underwent knee surgery in late September and appeared in only one game in October and November — a 6-0 shutout at Dallas where Clemmensen stopped 25 shots.

Theodore, signed as a free agent in July to replace departed starter Tomas Vokoun, suffered a knee injury on New Year's Eve in the second period of a game against Montreal.

After missing five games, Theodore returned to start games at Colorado and Chicago the week before the All-Star break. Theodore hasn't played since, and Coach Kevin Dineen said Wednesday his goalie was still having problems with the knee and would be given a few days off.

With Markstrom also sidelined after undergoing knee surgery on Jan. 10, it's Clemmensen's show right now, with recent call-up Brian Foster as his backup.


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It's clear Clemmensen's teammates are confident he'll continue to do the job.

"I don't think that we've ever doubted Clemmer at all," said rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson. "He's played absolutely phenomenal games for us. And the games we've lost as a team, he's been the strongest guy on the ice for us. We're all excited to have Clem in the net. He plays well. He's confident back there and he's a strong goalie."

Ironically, Theodore's injury occurred the night after Clemmensen was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period of a 4-1 home loss to the New York Rangers.

It may have been the worst start for Clemmensen since he joined the Panthers as a free agent in the summer of 2009.

"We had a good chat the next day and I said, ‘You know what, that's not my style,' " Dineen recalled following Wednesday's 4-2 victory against Washington during which Clemmensen made 26 saves. "I like to stick with a guy, but I felt the heartbeat was we needed a change at that time. And I said it's going to happen again. And sure enough Theo gets hurt that night and he rattles off a number of games for us. It takes a full team effort. We're going to need Scottie Clemmensen to play like he did tonight."

Clemmensen has been a backup throughout his whole career, but he has experience at holding down the fort while the starter is out with an injury. After playing for Toronto in 2007-08, Clemmensen signed a two-way contract with New Jersey the following summer and began the season in the AHL. When Martin Brodeur tore a biceps tendon, Clemmensen was recalled to become the backup to Kevin Weekes. But Weekes faltered and the Devils turned to Clemmensen.

Clemmensen, who had appeared in a combined 28 games in his first six NHL seasons, went on to play 40 games, and he posted a 25-13-1 mark to help put the Devils in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after Brodeur returned.

So the 34-year-old Clemmensen isn't fazed one bit by his increased role this season, no matter how long it lasts.

"I think the same rule applies where this League is so good that anytime you get an opportunity to play, you've got to make the best of it because there's so many good goalies out there waiting to take your spot," said Clemmensen, who went to the Frozen Four his four years at Boston College, finally winning the NCAA title as a senior in 2001. "With the injury to Theo that's been off and on, it has that similarity with the injury and me kind of playing a lot because of that. It's not that it's easy, but that experience helps.

"Having been through it in the past, you kind of know what to expect and how to approach things. Just my experience in general, I've been through a lot of different situations. At this point in my career, I 
think I can handle pretty much everything pretty well."
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