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Insurance policy paying big dividends for B-Sens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
With injuries hitting their goaltenders hard, the Binghamton Senators have been relying heavily on Barry Brust so far this season. The native of Swan River, Man., hasn't let them down, providing strong netminding since the start of the campaign (Just Sports Photography).

It's called insurance for a reason.

You never know when you'll need it, but you rest a little easier in knowing it's there.

So far this season, at least, the Binghamton Senators have cashed in big time on one of their policies. Without the play of Barry Brust between the pipes, who knows where they'd be?

"Goaltending hasn't been an issue with us," said B-Sens coach Kurt Kleinendorst, who has leaned heavily on Brust during the first two months of the current American Hockey League campaign. "Barry Brust has stepped in and done a tremendous job. He turned out to be a really good signing for the organization."

Given the injury woes surrounding the position, Brust has been much more than that. Expected starter Mike Brodeur suffered a concussion in the season-opener on Oct. 8 and has yet to return to action. And Robin Lehner, the Senators organization's top goaltending prospect, spent three weeks in Ottawa as a callup when Pascal Leclaire went down with a pulled groin. Now he's battling his own injury issues.

Enter Brust, an AHL journeyman for most of his professional career, who's seen action in 14 of 17 games for the B-Sens this season and has kept their season afloat. Wednesday night, Binghamton moved back above the .500 mark (8-7-1-1) by blanking the Syracuse Crunch 4-0, with Brust stopping all 33 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.

With a 6-6-1 record, 2.80 goals-against average and .916 save percentage, the 6-2, 216-pound Brust has been everything they'd hoped for — and then some — when the B-Sens signed him to an AHL contract over the summer.

"Having five goalies in the organization is not a bad thing," said Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray, who also oversees the operations in Binghamton. "We knew (Brust) would get playing time. That's what we signed him for and that's what he's done. He's played well.

"When we have five guys healthy, he's probably the odd guy out. But that changes tomorrow, that changes the next day. You don't have too many goalies (in your organization) and you don't have too many defencemen."

"It's crazy how it happens sometimes. If I get the chance to play, I've got to make the most of it and I feel like I've done that. I've been in the league for awhile, so I've seen these kind of things before. I'm just excited that I got the chance to play and show what I can do." - Barry Brust
Nobody knows better about the uncertainty of it all than Brust, who has seen plenty during previous AHL stops with the Manchester Monarchs and Houston Aeros, along with previous duty in the East Coast Hockey League. He was targeted for the Elmira Jackals, the Sens' ECHL affiliate, at the start of this season but has been in Binghamton almost from Day 1. And not just a bit player.

"It's crazy how it happens sometimes," said Brust, a 27-year-old native of Swan River, Man. "If I get the chance to play, I've got to make the most of it and I feel like I've done that. I've been in the league for awhile, so I've seen these kind of things before. I'm just excited that I got the chance to play and show what I can do."

Not that anyone imagined he'd get this kind of opportunity. But Kleinendorst, who's barely had the chance to make use of the tandem he thought he'd have this season, continues to ride Brust. He's been anything but disappointed so far.

"(Brust) has been great. He's been really good," said Kleinendorst. "Our guys like playing in front of him. We have confidence with him playing behind us. And it hasn't been a fluke. He just looks confident and he's doing a lot of things well."

Keep it coming, says Brust, a third-round pick (73rd overall) by the Minnesota Wild in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

"That's what you want," he said. "The more you play, the easier it is to play. You look at your mistakes a lot less. I just find it's easier to play when you're playing a lot."

Brust has 11 games worth of National Hockey League (with the Los Angeles Kings in 2006-07) on his resume, but won't begin to harbour a guess when — or if — he might get the chance to add to that total.

"Things change so fast," he said. "(The Senators) haven't really said much. Just keep stopping the puck."

Bouncing around Binghamton

The B-Sens are headed to Scotiabank Place on Nov. 26 to face off against the Hamilton Bulldogs, the AHL affliliate of the Montreal Canadiens. Tickets are on sale now ... Rookie Bobby Butler notched his league-leading 13th goal during Wednesday's victory in Syracuse ... Also topping the AHL charts: Scoring leader Corey Locke (7-19-26) and enforcer Francis Lessard (123 penalty minutes) ... Another busy weekend ahead for Binghamton, which is home to the Hershey Bears (Friday) and Hartford Wolf Pack (Saturday) before hitting the road to face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday.

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