It's a two goalie horse race for comeback player of the year in the NHL.
It's a toss up between Ty Conklin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pascal Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both have made bold statements for the award with their play during the 2007-08 season
Conklin has been a godsend for the fans in the Steel City, taking over from injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury in early December. Fleury, who won 40 games for the Penguins in 2006-07, fell awkwardly in a game against the Calgary Flames on December 6 and sprained his ankle.
Conklin has since come in and been a brick wall for the Penguins, registering 15 wins against just 4 losses with a minuscule 2.19 goals against average—currently the low G.A.A ranks him fourth in the NHL. On Sunday, he was brilliant in a victory over the Buffalo Sabres, stopping 36 of 37 shots in a 4-1 win.
It's likely not out of the realm of possibility that the Anchorage, Alaska native will remain as the Penguins number one goalie, even when Fleury returns to the Pens fold. Fleury has been rehabbing with Scranton Wilkes-Barre and is scheduled to be back this week.
The other comeback contender is Leclaire, who leads the NHL with eight shutouts. The 25-year-old, 6'2" goalie has appeared in 42 games this year, compiling a 20-12-4 record.
LeClaire played in only 24 games last season, managing just six victories against 15 losses and two overtime defeats.
He has been one of the main reasons why Columbus is still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. The Blue Jackets are just three points out their first ever playoff berth.
Columbus, founded in 2000, is the only active team in the NHL never to have qualified for the playoffs.
If the Jackets don't make the post-season, then the award will likely go to Conklin.
But, at the three-quarter pole, both thoroughbred goalies don't seem to be slowing down.