|Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire can't wait to get back between the pipes, but must wait at least 10 more days for his fractured cheekbone to be fully healed (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images),
All Pascal Leclaire wants for Christmas is his two feet back in net.
By the time the Senators and their fans celebrate the holidays, the team's starting goaltender is likely to get the best early present of them all — the green light to return to his customary spot in the Ottawa net. Head coach Cory Clouston suggested earlier today that date could be as little as 10 days away.
Sounds good to Leclaire, who has spent a frustrating few weeks on the sidelines while waiting for a fractured cheekbone — suffered when he was struck by an errant puck while sitting on the Senators bench during their Nov. 23 game against the Washington Capitals — to fully mend.
"Ten days to two weeks, I'd say," Leclaire said after the Senators' on-ice session at Scotiabank Place in advance of Thursday's matchup with the Flyers in Philadelphia (7 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200). "Hopefully, it's 10 days. I'll probably see the doctors next week and they'll make the call ... If in 10 days, they tell me I'm good to go, it'll be great. I'm really looking forward to coming back."
Most frustrating of all for Leclaire is that from the neck down, he's perfectly healthy. But until there's no risk of a shot hitting his mask and causing further damage, the 27-year-old native of Repentigny, Que., must continue to bide his time on the sidelines.
"Everything else is physically fine," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston. "It's just a matter of making sure that if he took a shot on that spot, it doesn't cause further damage, that's all. When that heals and he's ready to take shots in practice, he's basically ready to play. He's just got to get a little bit game ready, that's all."
Added Leclaire: "It's kind of weird. I feel pretty good but I just can't play. But at the same time, I can stay in shape, so whenever they say it's okay, it won't take long for me to get back in the game. At least I see it that way."
In the meantime, Leclaire spends most of his time at the rink doing off-ice workouts, though he's finally able to wear his mask now — a key step in his recovery from the fluke injury.
"Things are good," he said. "It's more of a waiting game than anything else. At least I'm able to stay active and stay in shape. I pretty much skate every day now, which is good. It's just a matter of making sure the bone heals up properly.
"It's pretty boring, it's pretty frustrating, but it is what it is ... The training part is not really fun. I'd rather be playing games than doing what I'm doing right now."
"It's kind of weird. I feel pretty good but I just can't play. But at the same time, I can stay in shape, so whenever they say it's okay, it won't take long for me to get back in the game. At least I see it that way." - Pascal Leclaire
If the 10-day forecast is accurate, Leclaire could suit up for the Senators' game Dec. 19 at home against the Minnesota Wild. If not then, perhaps two nights later against the Boston Bruins, also at Scotiabank Place.
Since Leclaire went down, Brian Elliott has carried the ball for the Senators in net, making nine straight starts. In all likelihood, No. 10 will come Thursday night at the Wachovia Center against the Flyers. But Clouston isn't concerned he may be overworking the goaltender who, at the season's outset, was intended to play about 25 games as the Senators' backup.
"We've kept a real good tab on his energy and his focus," Clouston said of Elliott, who endured some struggles during the Senators' just-completed western road trip. "He seems to be fine for energy. He hasn't been overtaxed on energy too much. Last night (against the Montreal Canadiens), he didn't face a whole lot of constant, constant pressure. He's just got to get his groove back."Around the boards
Alex Picard (upper body) practised with the team today and Clouston said it's possible the blueliner could return to the lineup against the Flyers ... Chris Neil
skated for the first time today since suffering a knee injury Nov. 25, but his return is still likely two weeks away ... Defenceman Anton Volchenkov took a "maintenance" day off practice today but Clouston expects to have the big Russian on the ice in Philadelphia ... Forward Ryan Keller has been re-assigned to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League ... The Senators are home again Saturday, when the Carolina Hurricanes visit Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Fewer than 4,000 tickets
remain for the Metro Family Game