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Win Costs Sens Their Early Season MVP In Leclaire

Clouston helps top line find chemistry, Foligno could see suspension for blindside hit (updated), Leclaire leaves game early with injury, finds himself quickly shelled by media, and an update on Lehner’s status, Ottawa rink absences, and the nature of Leclaire’s injury, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Citizen (and OS), on Ottawa’s tooth-and-nail 3-2 win over Carolina,

Nothing was simple about the Ottawa Senators’ first victory of the season, a nailbiting 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

Mike Fisher scored the winning goal, his second of the game, with 5:57 remaining and Hurricanes winger Jussi Jokinen in the penalty box. The goal ended the Senators’ 0-for-17 power-play drought to start the season.

“Hopefully, we can build on that and keep getting the chances,” said Fisher, unquestionably the Senators’ best player. “It’s going to be a big part of our game going forward and, hopefully, we’ll keep rolling.”

Despite the two points, it was a roller coaster game, even with Leclaire being thrown from the ride before it even set off.

With a pair of goals, Fisher looked as determined as ever last night, with the first goal showing tenacity for sticking with the initial missed shot, physical play in batting off Gleason to keep his footing, and wound up with luck as his shot bounced passed Ward after hitting Jokinen. Switching Neil up to the second line with Nick and Mike (the No NaMe line for me, since Neil’s name never gets around, Nick is called Mike Foligno by every broadcaster ever, and Mike is hidden by the bright lights from his wife) worked great, something I always thought Ottawa coaches had given up on, but it produced great chances and led the way for the Senators, carrying the torch from Neil’s previous line with Kelly and Ruutu.

From Senators Extra, on a nifty Clouston chemistry builder,

GAME CHANGER

A clever move by Cory Clouston to throw Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson out to kill the final 30 seconds of a penalty to Milan Michalek. The latter player jumped out of the box, joined a rush up the ice and finished a tic-tac-toe passing play with his fellow first-liners to give Ottawa a 2-0 lead. It was an insurance goal they wound up cashing in.

After being invisible for the first few games, Michalek had many good chances tonight, all but one steered clear by Ward, and the trio looked crisp at last. While Alfredsson has played a little less physical, good backchecking at times from Spezza has given him extra shine. Others, too, had their mixed moments, with Regin making equal parts good and bad passes to Kovalev, and Karlsson making some smart and some over eager defensive plays and decisions with the puck.

For Foligno, despite turning one of Carolina’s many spin-you-round moments into an assist on Fisher’s game winner, it will be his blind side hit that could get him noticed more than he’d like.

From Puck Daddy, on an harmless but hardly warranted hit by Foligno,

In just about every case where an NHL player has been suspended due to physical contact, the aftermath of the play consisted of a player being slow to get up off the ice or taken off on a stretcher. Judging by the way Colin Campbell has ruled on these sorts of things, if you hurt a player, get ready to spin that “Wheel of Justice”; if he’s okay, there’s nothing to see here, move along.

During Thursday night’s 3-2 Ottawa Senators’ win over the Carolina Hurricanes, Nick Foligno(notes) laid a textbook blind-side hit on Patrick Dwyer at center ice. Uninjured, Dwyer got up immediately, made his way to the bench and didn’t miss a shift the rest of the game.
[...]
No call was made, but reading the NHL’s definition of the new blind-side hit rule, Foligno should have been penalized:

48.1 Illegal Check to the Head - A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.

If you watch the TSN replay, the hit fits much of that rule. It was definitely a lateral or blind side hit to Dwyer. While Foligno is not a head hunter on the worst of days, and would not have been targeting Dwyer, the hit was still made. The closest defence one could mount is that in the replay, notably the third angle, it appears as though the hit could have also made contact with Dwyer’s side/arm, setting him into a spin before additional contact was made with his head.

Other than that small doubt, it would appear that Smith might draw back into the lineup for a bit in short order. But for all that, no news was bigger than seeing Leclaire pull himself from the game just a few minutes in.

Update - 12:35 p.m. - From Wayne Scanlan, Nick Foligno won’t see any time on the sidelines,

#Sens Foligno fined but not suspended for blindside hit on Canes Dwyer

From NHL.com, Colin Campbell explains the decision,

“While there was no injury as a result of the hit, it is clear that Foligno delivered a shoulder check from the blind side that made primary contact with Dwyer’s head,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “It is also clear that Foligno was delivering the hit in an attempt to get the puck. Finally, in determining that a fine was the appropriate discipline for this incident, I took into account that Foligno has not been suspended previously by the League.”

Whether you agree or disagree, Foligno now has a record, and further incidents won’t be dealt with so lightly. Also, as Puck Daddy Radio points out, suicide passes are still a bad idea for teammates to avoid gifting each other.

From the Ottawa Citizen, on Leclaire’s quick and shocking exit from the game,

The Senators goaltender lasted a mere two minutes six seconds into Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes before leaving with what team officials described as a lower-body injury. He was replaced by Brian Elliott.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury, which occurred when he was bumped by either Jeff Skinner or Tom Kostopoulos during a scrum around the net.

“I don’t know at all what length of time or how serious it is,” coach Cory Clouston said.

“I don’t know if it was a save or the guy kind of landed on him. I didn’t even know he was hurt. The whistle went and I looked back and he was down. I don’t know how or when or on which play he was hurt.”

On the opening shot, rookie Jeff Skinner, stumbled over Leclaire’s right leg, and soon after Kostopoulos did the same with some help from the side of the net to more awkwardly wedge the prone limb. On the Team 1200 radio show this morning, the hosts mentioned hearing word that Leclaire may have had a small injury from a practice aggravated by one of those events.

Either way, it makes me feel even worse about yesterday, calling for Elliott to play and seeing no reason for Leclaire to be in net. I got my wish, but not how I would want to.

From the Ottawa Sun, Leclaire takes a verbal beating,

As he hobbled and wobbled down the tunnel towards the Senators’ dressing room just two minutes and six seconds of game time past the opening faceoff, you had to wonder if it would be the last time you’d ever see Pascal Leclaire as a No. 1 goalie.
[...]
Without trying to sensationalize, how is Cory Clouston supposed to ever again show faith in Porcelain Pascal after the team’s best player through three games pulled himself so early into Thursday’s important tilt with the Hurricanes?

Some believed Clouston was nudged into playing Leclaire against the ’Canes in the first place, after hearing the coach backtrack, during the morning press conference, on a claim Brian Elliott would make his first start either against Carolina or Saturday in Montreal.

“You guys said that,” Clouston told the media when again asked if Elliott was still going to start one of the next two games. “And I said yeah, probably.”
[...]
If [Elliott can’t claim starting duties], then the Senators either need to forget about their fears of hindering Robin Lehner’s development and give the 19-year-old Swede a shot to play in the big leagues now, or turn to Mike Brodeur.

They can’t sit on their hands and blow this chance to be a playoff contender with shoddy goaltending.

Posted yesterday, among the chorus of cheers for Leclaire to be put in net again was that very Sun columnist, among many fans, all having little faith in Elliott, who guided the team to a franchise record winning streak last season, or his vastly superior numbers against Carolina.

Yes, Leclaire has shown a propensity for injuries: Ottawa knew of the first one when they traded for a then-injury-shelved Leclaire. Two fluke injuries did injure Leclaire last season, but I would challenge any player, NHL or otherwise, to take a slap shot to the mask, and another to a completely unprotected head, and shake it off as nothing more than a nuisance. I have yet to find any takers, nor any who could argue those injuries to be Leclaire’s fault or a sign of his propensity to be injured. I hate seeing as key a player as the one in net on the shelf, but I have a feeling that even with Miller, a puck to the head is still a damning injury.

Sometimes logic is overwhelmed by emotion. That is what it would be in Ottawa, were the team to throw Lehner into a fire without being confident he could skate smooth as butter over the hot skillet. If his recent playoff numbers are anything to tell of it, with just two second round wins since winning the Cup in 2002-03, Brodeur exemplifies the risk of putting too much pressure on a goalie, jamming him into games he maybe should have rested for.

This team is no Washington or Vancouver, and neither Lehner nor Elliott are likely to put up Dryden-level performances out of the blue. For the Senators to make any noise in the playoffs, or to help Melnyk move out of red ink with a second round appearance, it will take a full team, not just one man in a patch of blue paint.

That team still has a way to go to prove itself, and Ottawa does not have any more sacrificial goalie lambs to get them there. In reality, I feel more for Binghamton: they were supposed to make the playoffs for the first time since the NHL-talent-loaded lockout year, and with Brodeur injured and Lehner being demanded by media and fans in Ottawa, the already annually strained relationship between Ottawa and its farm team looks ready for another possible beating.

Update - 11:00 a.m. - From Joy Lindsay, on Robin Lehner’s current status,

Robin Lehner will start for #BSens tonight.

Kleinendorst says Ottawa would’ve let him know by now if they needed Lehner today. They have not. Tomorrow could be different story. #BSens

From Score Ottawa, on the absences at the rink,

Leclaire not on the ice, Spezza’s brother is in net

No Gonchar or Alfredsson on the ice either….

Update - 12:35 p.m. - From NHL.com, Kevin Weekes breaks down the likely source of Leclaire’s injury,

But, according to the Ottawa Sun, that wasn’t the actual source of it.

From Score Ottawa, on Leclaire’s injury evaluation,

Leclaire groin injury suffered while stopping 1st shot of game. Won’t make the trip this weekend. To be re-evaluated next week.

Expect Lehner to be called up, and for Binghamton, sans Lehner and with Brodeur injured, to be more than a little frustrated.

Below, the shot that occurred just before Skinner’s visit to the crease, one that may have gotten Leclaire just to the right of the groin. Ruutu may have to apologize to Leclaire and the team for his brother. The first shot belongs to McBain though, no highlight but is listed as being from 68ft and a wrister, vs. Ruutu from 54ft and a snap shot, with the final shot for Leclaire from Samsonov, a wrister from 57ft. Unless the pucks to the head last season really got to him though, he probably does recall which shot started it all.

Update - 2:00 p.m. - From Wayne Scanlan, Leclaire went “pop,”

Pascal Leclaire on groin injury Thurs vs. Canes: “The first save, I just kicked my leg out and I heard a little pop and felt it right away”

With “pop” now joining “snap” and “crackle” on Leclaire’s list, hopefully we can move on to Golden Grahams so the fans can Cheerios, rather than an untimely Captain Crunch.

Filed in: NHL News, NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, | SENShobo | Permalink
 

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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net