Ottawa Senators coach Cory Clouston said Pascal Leclaire was the team's best player during the first three games. With the oft-injured goaltender now hurting again, Clouston is hoping backup Brian Elliott can deliver like he did in 2009-10.
Elliott makes his first start of the season Saturday when Ottawa tries to defeat the Montreal Canadiens for the fifth straight time - both overall and at the Bell Centre.
The Senators (1-2-1) opened 2010-11 by losing their first three games for the first time in franchise history, but Leclaire kept his club close in those contests by stopping 90 of 100 shots. Ottawa broke into the win column Thursday with a 3-2 home win over Carolina, but Leclaire left with a groin injury 2:06 into the first period. He is out indefinitely.
"It is frustrating," he said. "It's almost like every year, I've got a little something (hurt). Especially last year, with the bad luck I had."
Leclaire broke his cheekbone last November when he got hit by a puck while sitting on the bench, and missed 16 games. He missed nine more games two months later after being hit on the forehead by a shot - again off teammate Mike Fisher's stick - during a morning skate.
That night, the Senators posted a 2-0 victory at the New York Rangers to begin a franchise-record 11-game winning streak. Elliott had a 1.22 GAA while starting the final nine games of that run.
"He was in the same situation for us a couple of times last year and he played well for us," Clouston said.
Elliot, 3-1-1 with a 2.90 GAA in six career starts against Montreal, will be backed up by AHL Binghamton call-up Robin Lehner.
While the Senators are trying to win their first road game of the season in their third try, the Canadiens (2-1-1) are looking to build off Friday's 2-1 victory at Buffalo.
"The last two games, I wasn't pleased with how we played away from the puck,'' said coach Jacques Martin, whose team plays four of its next five at home. "... (Friday) we stayed out of the penalty box, rolled four lines, and I thought that was a big difference.''
Carey Price felt the difference, facing just 23 shots after 110 were fired toward him in the first three contests.
"It makes my job a lot easier when guys can't get second and third whacks at pucks,'' said Price, 0-2-0 with a 4.25 GAA in his last three starts versus the Senators.
If former Senator Alex Auld gets the start in goal, it will be his first appearance of the season. Auld, who split time with Elliott in Ottawa in 2008-09, is winless with a 4.57 GAA in his last three starts versus the Senators.
Fisher, who tallied his first two goals of the season Thursday, has three goals and six assists during a seven-game point streak against the Canadiens.
The Senators outscored Montreal 9-3 while winning all three meetings at the Bell Centre last season. They've won seven of eight against the Canadiens overall.