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Leclaire remains confident about NHL future

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Injuries limited Pascal Leclaire to just 14 games this season. But the Senators goaltender is confident he'll find NHL employment somewhere else next season. Craig Anderson has been signed to a four-year contract as Ottawa's new starter (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Pascal Leclaire's season of frustration has officially reached its end.

But he remains filled with optimism about the next stage of his National Hockey League career, even if it won't be in Ottawa with the Senators.

"I'm really confident I'll find a place to play in the NHL," said Leclaire, who underwent hip surgery in Vail, Colo., earlier this week and faces three months of rehabilitation. "I still see myself as an NHL goalie. I know I'll be back."

Leclaire, who battled injuries during the last two seasons, was essentially written out of the Senators' future plans earlier this week, when Craig Anderson signed a four-year contract to take over as the team's starting goaltender. He saw only 14 games of action during the 2010-11 campaign and hasn't played since Dec. 16.

The 28-year-old native of Repentigny, Que.,  is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"Right now, I'm going to fix my leg," said Leclaire. "That's the most important thing. After that, we’ll figure something out. That’s why we have agents. I have a lot of of confidence in Donnie Meehan. I didn’t become a bad goalie because I got hurt. I was playing pretty well this year (before then). So fix the leg and then I’ll find a place to go. I’m sure somebody will sign me and we’ll go from there."

It didn't appear it would turn out this way for Leclaire, especially with the way his season started. He was arguably the Senators' best player in the early going until he suffered a groin injury during an Oct. 14 game against the Carolina Hurricanes. That cost Leclaire seven games, but then he went down again a week before Christmas.

At the time, Leclaire thought he was dealing with another groin issue, but it lingered for months. It was only when he paid a visit to Dr. Marc Phillipon, a renowned hip specialist at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, that the problem was narrowed down to his right hip. The surgery the goaltender underwent, which involved repairing a torn labrum and shaving down a piece of the hip bone, is similar to procedures done on Anderson and Minnesota Wild stopper Niklas Backstrom in the past. Both returned as effective goaltenders.

"(Anderson) has no issues with it," said Leclaire. "He told me I'm not going to have any issues with it. It's just a longer rehab. (Dr. Phillipon) is supposed to be the best in the world and that's why I went there. I'm pretty confident. And it's a big relief to me to finally find out what it was and now I'm able to move on."

When the Senators obtained Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL trade deadline in 2008, it was thought they'd acquired a top-notch starting goaltender. But injuries limited him to 34 games last season — Brian Elliott eventually assumed the starting role — and the same occurred in the current campaign, though it's Anderson who is now entrenched in the No. 1 role.

"It's frustrating, but it's something out of my control," Leclaire said about his unfulfilled promise in Ottawa. "I would love to have come here and played 60 to 70 games in a season. But I got hurt — it's life and we'll deal with it. So it didn't work out and we move on. There's not a whole lot I can do."

Watch Pascal Leclaire speak about his hip surgery and goaltending future on Sens TV online.

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