Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Vancouver matchup.
|Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire returns to the net for tonight's matchup with the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Place. It's be his first game action since Oct. 14 (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Pascal Leclaire's time has finally arrived again.
Four weeks after a pulled groin put him on the sidelines, the Ottawa Senators goaltender returns to action tonight at Scotiabank Place against the Vancouver Canucks (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200). Not exactly a soft touch opponent for a guy who was forced out of action against the Carolina Hurricanes back on Oct. 14.
"It’s a good challenge," Leclaire said of tonight's matchup with a Canucks team (8-4-2) that is considered a top Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference. "It’s been awhile since I’ve been in there, but I’m looking forward to getting back in it. We’re in a good streak right now, so we just want to keep things moving."
The Senators have run off four straight victories and are 7-2-0 in their last nine outings with Brian Elliott between the pipes. But Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston simply decided Elliott needed a break after 11 straight starts, calling it "perfect timing" to get Leclaire back into the mix.
"We can’t play Brian 70 games in a row," Clouston said following the Senators' pre-game skate this morning. "(Leclaire) has played well in the past and Brian is nursing a little bit of a bump and a bruise. He should be ready for full practice tomorrow, though ... We have five or six very tough opponents coming up here. We need to have (Elliott) well rested and focused and we need Pascal to get back on track as well."
Indeed, though the Senators' record didn't show it, Leclaire was the team's best player during four straight starts to open the season. Clouston, for one, is confident that his goaltender can recapture that form soon enough.
"We’re not hoping for it, we think it’s going to happen," said Clouston. "He’s practised well, he’s confident, he feels physically very good and that’s all we have to get from him. We just have to play well in front of him."
Added centre Mike Fisher: "He’s been working hard. He played great early on, even though we didn’t get many wins. Hopefully, he can carry that over (tonight)."
"I’m like anyone else. I want to play as much as possible. But the team’s been playing well and Brian (Elliott) has been playing really well. It’s a coaching decision. You stick with the winning lineup and what works for you. Players understand that. It just gave me a little more time to practice and feel comfortable." - Pascal Leclaire
While Leclaire has felt good to go for awhile now, Clouston and the Senators kept riding Elliott's hot hand as they emerged from an early season funk. Professional that he is, Leclaire knew better than to argue with winning results.
"I’m like anyone else. I want to play as much as possible," he said. "But the team’s been playing well and Brian has been playing really well. It’s a coaching decision. You stick with the winning lineup and what works for you. Players understand that. It just gave me a little more time to practice and feel comfortable.
"I was feeling good at the beginning of the year and when I got hurt, Brian came in and played well for us. It’s healthy competition. If both guys can push each other … we’re all in the same business. You’ve got to win hockey games. When the team is winning, everybody looks good. We’re all in it for that."
Tonight's matchup with the Canucks is also the Senators' last one at home before a tough four-game road trip that will take them to Boston, Philadelphia, Carolina and St. Louis. It's a game they want to win to set the right tone for the journey that lies ahead.
"We talked about that going into this homestand, how we had to get these wins at home," Spezza said of the Senators, who are 4-1-0 in their last five at Scotiabank Place. "Now we're facing a team that a lot of people are picking to win the West. We know they're going to give us a good game and we've got a lot of tough games going up."
Said Clouston: "(The Canucks) are a very solid, well-rounded team. We're going to have to play our best tonight. We want to build on our last successes and we know it's a tough challenge, but we're excited about this opportunity."Around the boards
Forward Alex Kovalev enters tonight's game three points shy of the 1,000 milestone for his career ... Defenceman Matt Carkner
is set to play his 100th career National Hockey League game on Saturday in Boston, a milestone Elliott will also reach if he starts in goal against the Bruins ... The Senators and Canucks split their two meetings last season, with each winning on home ice ... After the road trip ends, the Senators play six of their next seven games at Scotiabank Place, starting Nov. 22 against the Los Angeles Kings ... A special Remembrance Day ceremony will precede tonight’s game.