Monday, September 12, 2011

Elliott ready for goaltending battle

Netminder signed as free agent will compete with Bishop for backup role

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- By his own admission, Brian Elliott's upcoming challenge is nothing new.

Elliott, signed as a free agent on July 1, will compete with local native Ben Bishop for the backup role with the Blues this season behind starter Jaroslav Halak.

"It's something that I've gone through my whole career," the 26-year-old Elliott said after arriving in St. Louis Thursday. "In college (at the University of Wisconsin), I came in and backed up the first two years, but I definitely pushed for that starting spot. When I got the chance, I ran with it."

Elliott signed a one-year, two-way contract for $600,000 after statistically having his worst NHL season, splitting time between Ottawa and Colorado.

Elliott, who was 29-18-4 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 2009-10 with the Senators, saw his numbers turn for the worse last season.
(Getty Images)
Brian Elliott will battle for the backup job behind Jaroslav Halak.

Elliott began in Ottawa and was 13-19-8 with a 3.19 GAA and .894 save percentage before being traded to the Avalanche for fellow netminder Craig Anderson. When he got to Colorado, it didn't get any better, as he went 2-8-1 with a 3.83 GAA and .891 save percentage to end the season.

"That's the toughest part, not letting yourself get down or being too hard on yourself, trying to do too much," Elliott said. "When you do that, that's when things get even worse. I think as a whole team, you have to stay level-headed the whole time. If you hit a couple bad games in a row, you just kind of have to bounce back and not worry about it and know you have confidence in each other in the room to get it done.

Elliott said he didn't feel as bad as the numbers may have looked last season.

"There are times I felt I played really well (last season)," he said. "Sometimes you didn't get the win when you played really well. It's something you have to learn from and not forget about it totally. But it is a new year, a new start. The standings are zero, zero, zero all the way down, so it's exciting to get that chance and opportunity to be a part of something special."

Elliott went into the summer with the realization that goalies were going to go fast and furious. So instead of waiting to see if there would be a one-way deal somewhere, he liked what he saw with the Blues and embraces the challenge.

"Looking around, this is definitely a team on the up and up," Elliott said of the Blues. "They're young and they obviously acquired some good leadership in the summertime. It's something I wanted to be a part of. There's great history and pride that comes on a team like this. I'm excited to get the chance to be a part of it.

"There were definitely opportunities out there, but things went really quick for goalies. You kind of just had to make a decision. Teams were waiting on different people to get answers back. Obviously here, they were pretty interested in me. They wanted to get me, and it's nice to know you feel wanted and to be a part of the team."

Prior to his 29-win season in 09-10, Elliott won 16 games the previous season, so it's not like the Blues are looking at someone on the downside of their career. But coming from that particular position, Elliott says proving yourself is an everyday occurance.

"As a goalie today, I think you have to prove yourself basically every day you're out on the ice," he said. "There's no difference here. I want to be the best that I can be on any given day. It's just a matter of making stops. If you do that, you'll solidify your spot in the league. You'll always go through trials and tribulations. It's just how you handle them and move forward. That describes the type of player you are."

The Blues will most certainly keep their eye in this goalie battle when camp gets underway Friday.

I think there's quite a few (battles) that are intriguing," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Obviously Bishop and Elliott is one when you start at the back. We know that that's a legitimate competition to see who's going to back Jaro up."

Elliott understands either he or Bishop will win the job here and the other will make the journey to Peoria and play for the team's AHL affiliate. Whatever happens, the Newmarket, Ontario native Elliott is prepared.

"It's kind of been the story of my career," Elliott said. "I don't have any reservations about it. I'm excited for it. I just want to be the best teammate possible.

"There's a lot of good talent here. Just from going in and playing St. Louis, the crowd was rocking every night. It's pretty cool to see that hockey's still alive down here. It was almost better than being in Canada. It's pretty cool to be a part of it now. I'm excited for it."

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