VANCOUVER - Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire, the NHL leader with six shutouts this season, will miss at least the Blue Jackets' game Thursday night in Vancouver because of a pulled hamstring.
Leclaire is 10-5-1 this season, third in the NHL with a 1.88 goals-against average, second with a .931 save percentage, and has already set a single-season franchise record with the six shutouts.
He hurt his leg Sunday in Edmonton and hasn't practised the last two days in Vancouver. He could be back as soon as Saturday in Calgary, but after watching him come back too soon from a knee injury last season and end up requiring surgery that ended his season, coach Ken Hitchcock made it clear the team won't rush it.
"We've already learned our lesson. He doesn't come back until he's 100 per cent," Hitchcock said. "He's chomping at the bit right now. He's feels great. He's had marked improvement. He wants to join the club tomorrow. But we're not doing this until we're 100 per cent sure, and we're going to go at it slowly."
Columbus recalled goalie Tomas Popperle from the AHL on an emergency basis to back up Fredrik Norrena on Thursday against the Canucks. But he couldn't make it from Syracuse in time for Wednesday's practice, so 46-year-old goalie coach Clint Malarchuk was in goal.
Malarchuk, whose 10-year NHL career ended in 1992 before playing and coaching in the now-defunct IHL until 1997, said it was his first real action in 12 years.
"It was the old dinosaur moves in there," Malarchuk said with a laugh after showing off some outdated two-pad stack saves.
And what if Popperle, 5-8 with a 3.30 goals-against average for Syracuse this season, misses his flight and isn't ready for Thursday' game?
"I'm more than ready. It was a clinic out there," Malarchuk said, joking.
The Blue Jackets also put centre Jiri Novotny on injured reserve Wednesday after he sustained a concussion against Minnesota. Novotny was injured when he collided with the Wild's Aaron Voros as Voros left the penalty box late in Friday's game.
Columbus also recalled defenceman Marc Methot from Syracuse.