Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Elliott to start tonight, hard work in offseason pays off

Looks like Brian Elliott will be making his 2nd straight start tonight.
While throwing the franchise's top goaltending prospect into the fire might be seen by some as a desperate move to salvage a flagging season, Senators general manager Bryan Murray has a grander plan in mind.

"He was the goaltender of the month (for December) down there," said Murray. "His record indicated that he deserved a chance and my thought was that for the next couple of games, we'd give him an opportunity to see what he can do at this level. That gives me information as I look around and make decisions going forward."

As the season approaches its midpoint, the Senators (13-21-6) stand 14th in the Eastern Conference, some 15 points shy of a playoff position. They also continue to be the NHL's lowest-scoring outfit. All of which figures to provide a stern mental test for Elliott, the Sens' ninth-round selection (291st overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

"It's not easy to play in this league for any goaltender," Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg said in discussing the environment in which Elliott is being asked to prosper. "I thought Brian showed great poise the other day, not just in the game but in the dressing room and around things. He did a good job."
Elliott's offseason training with Mike Valley seems to have a lot to do with his current success.
- "You have to invest in yourself if you want to get better."

- "When you are in the zone, everything slows down a bit," Elliott said. "You are anticipating plays better. Your eyes track the puck better. You rely on your anticipation. That's what I've been learning, trying to stay in that ideal performance state."

- "I wanted someone to push me all summer long. He said the only way I'm going to do this (train him) is if you play as hard as you can and your goal is to play in the NHL. He said don't sell yourself short," Elliott said. "You can't just go to a local gym and do some push-ups. It (improving) is not something you can take lightly."

- "Absolutely. Absolutely," Valley said when asked if he foresaw Elliott coming so far so fast. "Brian is a student of the game. I'm lucky to have a student like him. He lives every day in the moment, which is tough for younger guys to do. It's all about today."

- "I set my sights high. I think it paid off this year," Elliott said. "Once you have success with one thing, you kind of keep doing it. You take care of the small details, and the big things will take care of themselves."