OTTAWA — Pascal Leclaire can’t believe his luck, nor can the Ottawa Senators believe theirs.
Facing a schedule that will see them play 16 games in the next 29 days, the Senators will have to do it without their No. 1 goaltender after he suffered a fractured cheekbone in Monday night’s 4-3 overtime win over the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place.
The kicker: Leclaire wasn’t even playing.
“It’s disappointing, it’s totally bad luck and I don’t know what the odds are,” the native of Repentigny, Que., said Tuesday, where he met the media following the Senators practice.
Of course, Leclaire didn’t participate in the skate ahead of Wednesday night’s game at New Jersey. He was busy getting ready to meet with a plastic surgeon, who will operate on the right side of his face that was struck by an errant puck while he sat on the bench.
Having suffered a slight lower-body injury in Ottawa’s 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, Leclaire was serving as the backup to Brian Elliott on Monday when Senators centre Mike Fisher lost an edge along the boards while dumping the puck into Washington’s zone. The puck appeared to strike a stick and sailed into Ottawa’s bench, rebounding off the glass and off the side of Leclaire’s head.
“I didn’t even see it coming,” the 27-year-old said. “I was talking to one of our trainers, just chatting. It hit me like a baseball bat. It hurt quite a bit and then I was kind of dazed for a while.
“I’m trying to see it the other way, it could have got me in the eye, it could have been worse. We’ll deal with it.
“I’ll laugh in 20 years about it.”
In the meantime, the Senators aren’t laughing. Leclaire is expected to miss about four weeks, Senators coach Cory Clouston said.
“There’s nothing you can say (to Leclaire), really,” Clouston added. “Get ready, we’ll be waiting.”
With the games starting to come fast and furious, dealing with injuries are going to test the Senators, who have won four straight contests. The victory over Washington allowed them to vault into top spot in the Northeast Division.
Last Thursday, veteran winger Shean Donovan suffered ligament damage to his knee after a hit by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke and is out for six to eight weeks.
Anton Volchenkov still isn’t ready to return from an elbow injury, although he could be back by the weekend.
Alex Kovalev, who returned to Russia last week following the death of his mother-in-law, won’t be back in time for Wednesday’s game.
And red-hot Fisher left practice early Tuesday nursing bumps and bruises, although Clouston said he should be in the lineup against the Devils.
Elliott will handle the majority of the workload in goal while Leclaire recovers.
Ottawa has recalled Mike Brodeur from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as backup.
“That’s a terrible break for (Leclaire) and for us,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “It gives a chance for Brian to step in and get some regular time. He’s played really well when he has been called upon and we feel comfortable with him playing without question.”
Leclaire, who held a bag of ice to apply to his face, could speak without any problems, although he said chewing food was a bit tougher.
It’s tough luck for a guy with a history of injury problems over parts of five seasons in the NHL.
“Especially that one. You can pull some stuff during games, but I’m sitting on the bench and to get the puck right off the face. a It’s total bad luck and it catches me every year, but this one is almost that bad that I almost have to laugh about it,” said Leclaire, who joked that he might have some extra work done while he’s under the surgeon’s knife.
“I don’t know I might try to get calf implants or abs or something. We’ll see what the prices are.”
Leclaire arrived in Ottawa via trade last March from the Columbus Blue Jackets after having never played more than the 54 games he appeared in during 2007-08.
The Senators acquired him after he appeared in just 12 games last year and undergoing surgery to repair an ankle injury.
With an 8-5-1 record, a 2.71 goals-against average and .901 save percentage, he’s been trying to find some consistency this season and the time off won’t help him find any kind of rhythm.
“I was hoping for an injury-free year, but to me, that’s not really an injury that’s hockey related. That’s bad luck and I’ll heal up,” he said. “I’ll be able to skate and stay in shape while the bone is healing. It’s disappointing because I’m going to miss some time with a big month ahead of us, lots of games, and I was feeling good right now. I like where my game was going.”
Elliott has gone 4-1-2 so far this year with a 2.91 GAA and .902 save percentage.
When Ottawa suffered through a dismal season last year, it was Elliott who was promoted from Binghamton and handed the No. 1 duties when Martin Gerber and Alex Auld struggled and fared well down the stretch.
Now the Senators are hoping Elliott continues his solid play while Leclaire recovers.
“You’ve got to feel for a guy in that position,” Elliott said. “An unlucky chain of events, (but) obviously, when an opportunity pops up, you want to take advantage of it.
“I think that experience last year of playing a lot of games in a row and getting a lot of chances will help me. Every time I go out on the ice, I feel a little more comfortable, a little more confident. Hopefully, that resonates to the rest of the guys and they play well in front of me.”