The Ottawa Senators’ season is on the line in Game 5 with the team facing a 3-1 series deficit. And the team is making a roster move to really shake things up and inject some life into the squad.
Goaltender Pascal Leclaire will make his first career postseason start in place of Brian Elliott when the puck drops at 7 p.m. at Mellon Arena.
“I’m excited,” Leclaire said. “It should be fun especially here. It’s a loud building. It’s a great challenge for our team and I’m definitely excited to be a part of it.”
Elliott started the first four games of the season but was pulled early in the second period of Game 4 after allowing four goals on 19 shots. The novice Leclaire replaced him in net for his first playoff experience, and stopped 20 of 23 shots in the losing effort.
“When you’re on the ice it’s the same game,” Leclaire said. “It’s just louder in the stands and people have towels and stuff. The intensity is there. You have to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on and be ready for anything. When the puck is around your goal you have to follow that little black thing. That’s all you can do. I’ll try to control what I can control and that’s it.”
“He came in last game and made some big saves right away,” forward Mike Fisher said. “That gave us a little bit of life. We’re hoping he can do the same. When he’s on, he’s on. He has a chance to steal a game. That’s what we’re hoping for tonight. “
The Senators obtained Leclaire from Columbus at last season’s trade deadline in a move that sent the goaltender and a second-round pick to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Antoine Vermette.
Leclaire, who was the eighth-overall selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Columbus, opened the season as the Senators starting goaltender. However, he was dethroned in mid-January by Elliott due to his inconsistent play.
Leclaire, who finished the season with a 12-14 record, 3.20 goals-against average and .887 save percentage, has started only five of Ottawa’s last 27 games. Although he doesn’t think there will be any rust to shake off once the puck drops.
“My focus is on just the game tonight and not what happened this year,” Leclaire said. “Whatever is done is done. I don’t have any control over it. I’m just going to battle with teammates and see what happens.
“I’ve felt good all week at practices and stuff. I worked hard. I felt good this morning. I feel confident. I feel relaxed. I’m not worried about that at all. I’m excited to play and it should be fun.”
Now Leclaire will shoulder the burden of helping his team stave off elimination and live to fight another day.
“We’re all focused on the task,” he said. “I don’t think people are giving us a chance right now. It’s a great challenge. We like the underdog feeling. It was pretty relaxed this morning. We obviously know the situation. We have to make sure we come up with a big game tonight. “
And if the team doesn’t come up with a big game, then Leclaire may have wait at least one more year to see playoff action. But he is hoping that won’t be the case.
“It should be a fun one and hopefully it’s not the last.”