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Senators getting net gains from Elliott, Leclaire

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Though it didn't show in the win column, Pascal Leclaire had a strong week in goal for the Senators last week, allowing just six goals in his three starts (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Edmonton matchup.

In the eyes of many, it was perhaps the biggest cause for concern about the Ottawa Senators heading into this season.

But if the play of Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire over the last week is any indication, the question mark that surrounded the team's goaltending might soon be replaced by an exclamation point.

Elliott, who will be back between the pipes for tonight's matchup against the Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200), is coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday evening. Before that, Leclaire allowed a mere six goals in three starts last week, with only Ottawa's shortage of audience limiting him to one win.

"Really, all you can ask of your goalies is to give you a chance to win the game," Senators defenceman Chris Campoli said when asked about the solid netminding the team is starting to see on a nightly basis. "And they've more than done that, I'd say, on a consistent basis this season. They're been really good for us.

"What was a question at the beginning of the year for a lot of people, in my opinion, shouldn't be a question anymore."

If that performance level keeps up, Senators head coach Cory Clouston might be able to start thinking he can't go wrong, no matter whom he selects to tend goal. Elliott is getting the nod tonight, in large part, because of his effort on Saturday.

"It's not necessarily a slight (against) Pascal," Clouston said in explaining his goaltending choice against the Oilers. "Brian got a shutout and it's tough not to start a goaltender after a shutout."

While the Senators -- and in particular the line of Mike Fisher, Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek, which supplied all the goals Saturday -- gave Elliott more than enough offensive support, Leclaire found himself on the hard-luck end of back-to-back 2-1 setbacks at the hands of the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We tend to play with a more offensive mindset in front of Brian," said Clouston. "We’ve generated more offence for him. It’s been tough for Pascal ... we don’t get him a lot of goals for whatever reason.He’s played well for the most part of his games. We just haven’t given him the offensive support. We’ve got to get him more than one goal, that’s for sure."

Added captain Daniel Alfredsson: "Both goalies have played really well for us this year. We’ve gone through stretches — and we did that last year, too — when we struggle to score goals. The way we’ve been playing in the neutral zone and in our own end have been a lot better. It’s just that extra offence that we need to make us climb in the standings more."

Needless to say, the Senators want to bring more of the offence they generated Saturday into tonight's matchup with an Oilers team that features rising talents Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi. Not that they want to get into a run-and-gun shootout.

"We don’t want to make it too back and forth," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "We’d like to tighten it up a little bit. But we expect (the Oilers) to be a team that skates a lot with the young legs they’ve got ... the fact they play a pretty up tempo game, we expect that from them tonight. We really want to try to limit our mistakes and not give them too many free scoring chances."

Around the boards

The Senators will welcome back a familiar face tonight when Martin Gerber gets the start in goal for the Oilers. After two-plus years in Ottawa, Gerber spent last season in Russia before getting another National Hockey League shot with Edmonton. ... "Gerbs was a great teammate, a great guy in the room," said Spezza. "He never complained and worked hard in practice. He just didn't get the results sometimes that he wanted. It's a good success story to see him back playing (in the NHL)." ... Ottawa defence prospect Jared Cowen has earned an invite to Team Canada's final selection camp for the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo. The camp begins Dec. 12 in Toronto. Cowen was a member of Canada's silver-medal winning squad at last year's world juniors in Sasktachewan.


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