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Lessard adding punch to Binghamton lineup

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Veteran forward Francis Lessard brings an edge to the Binghamton Senators lineup, just the way he has throughout his professional hockey career. He wouldn't have it any other way (Just Sports Photography).

He is the Binghamton Senators' ultimate warrior.

Francis Lessard understands fully why, more than a decade later, he still has a job in professional hockey. And the gritty B-Sens forward still relishes the role he's paid to play every night.

"I'm a tough guy," said the 31-year-old Montrealer, the American Hockey League's current king of the sin bin with 123 penalty minutes in 15 games. "I play my role and I try to do my best ever game. That's pretty much it.

"I like it. I've been doing it for years. That put me into the game. Sometimes, when a team is down, you've got to scrap and that lifts your team a little bit. That's fun."

Going back to his rookie pro year — when he racked up 416 PIMs in 78 games for the Philadelphia Phantoms — Lessard has been a physical presence. Three more time in his professional career has cracked the 300 mark in penalty minutes, most recently in 2008-09 with the AHL's San Antonio Rampage (324). But there is also a purpose behind it all.

"The thing I like is giving the big hit and then (the opponents) come after you," he said. "It's just not fighting for nothing. It's fun to play the game and give some energy to your team. And when you have the time to scrap, it's time to scrap.

"But you have to fight at the right time. You don't want to take bad penalties, either — you have to be careful. When the game is 2-0 for the other team and you want to give the tempo to your team, maybe it's time to scrap. If a small player (on your team) gets hit, you jump him. You protect your teammates."

That role in Binghamton belonged to Jeremy Yablonski and Matt Carkner in recent seasons. But Yablonski signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers over the summer and Carkner is firmly entrenched on the Ottawa Senators blue line. Enter Lessard, who has 91 games of previous National Hockey League experience with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Like many in the AHL, Lessard hasn't given up hope of making back to the show.

"The dream is still to go back to the NHL," he said. "I played two seasons in the NHL. That's always the dream, that's why we're playing. I still love the game, so that's why I'm still playing."

In the meantime, Lessard also hopes to show the way for some of the younger B-Sens players.

"Just show them the example," he said when asked what he can share with his more youthful teammates. "Work hard every practice and show them (how) to be ready each game and they'll be all right ... I want to show the example to the young kids and show them how to be a pro."

Bouncing around Binghamton

Heading into tonight's play, B-Sens forward Bobby Butler leads the AHL in goals (14) and game-winners (five), while Corey Locke sits on top of the league scoring race (7-20-27) ... Robin Lehner returned to the Binghamton net on Sunday night, stopping 19-of-21 shots he faced in a 2-1 road loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins ... It's another weekend of three games in three nights for Binghamton this weekend. Besides the matchup with the Bulldogs on Friday night at Scotiabank Place, the B-Sens tangle with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday in Binghamton and travel to Albany, N.Y., to face the Devils on Saturday night.

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