|Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire joined his teammates for their road trip to Toronto, another indication that his recovery from a pulled groin is nearing its completion (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
Pascal Leclaire can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Ottawa Senators goaltender boarded the flight to Toronto with his teammates on Tuesday afternoon, another clear indication that he's almost completed the road to recovery from a pulled groin he suffered in the early going of his Oct. 14 start against the Carolina Hurricanes.
With rookie netminder Robin Lehner
re-assigned to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League earlier today, Leclaire will most likely dress as the backup to Brian Elliott on Tuesday night when Ottawa faces off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
Leclaire is hopeful he'll be ready to see game action sometime in the next week.
"The next five to seven days, we'll see, but we'll go from there," he said after taking part in a full Senators practice for the first time since suffering the injury more than two weeks ago. "I don't want to get into that (speculation) and then if it happens, great, but if it doesn't, then it's (press) the panic button. But so far it feels good, I'm moving forward and I'm pretty happy on that count."
While there were some suggestions last week that Leclaire had possibly taken a step backward in his recovery, the 27-year-old native of Repentigny, Que., was merely following a cautious approach toward an injury that can be unpredictable.
"I started skating and then I backed off a bit," he said. "It didn't mean it was getting really worse. We decided to give it a rest a little bit and that kind of worked. After that, you try to push it a little more and since then, it's been good. So a lot of progress. The first week was rough but after that, pretty much every day it's started to get better."
Another positive sign arrived with this morning's practice, said Leclaire.
"Today was a good day and we'll see how I react in the morning," he said. "It's always that kind of game since the start. I'm trying to push more every day and wait until the next day to see how I feel when I get up. So far, so good."
The next step, of course, is testing it in a game. But Leclaire won't do that until he's almost 100 per cent certain the healing process is a success.
"In practice, it's not the same as in games," he said. "You always have the chance to control it a little more. But if I'm not (there), I'm pretty close to it and that's the goal. Before I get in (to a game), I've got to make sure I'm confident and I'm not scared of the movement and not hesitate for anything. I think we're almost there."
Leclaire's first season with the Senators was largely scuttled by injuries — mainly of the freakish nature — and he was off to a solid start in this campaign before going down with the groin injury. Still, he's managing to keep everything in perspective
“When you look at it, it’s been two weeks, so it’s not too bad,” he said. “I’ve been out six, seven months (with past injuries). It is frustrating to miss some games. I was feeling good and stuff, and then you’ve got to take that step backward and rebuild everything again. But to put it in perspective, it’s not bad.”