Brian Elliott is trying to show he belongs with the Ottawa Senators instead of in the minors. He's also doing his best to keep his team's faint postseason hopes alive.
With Elliott in net, the Senators haven't looked like a team that will likely miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons. If he starts again Wednesday night, he'll try to help them match their longest home win streak of the season as they finish an eight-game stretch at Scotiabank Place with a matchup against the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ottawa (26-29-10) has won three straight with its rookie goaltender starting each time but sits in 12th place in the East.
If not for an ankle injury to recently acquired Pascal Leclaire, Elliott might be spending his days in Binghamton of the AHL instead of Ottawa. At the March 4 trade deadline, the Senators picked up Leclaire and a second-round pick in the 2009 draft from Columbus for center Antoine Vermette.
Leclaire, who had surgery in January, could return before the end of the season, and that would force Ottawa coach Cory Clouston to choose between Elliott or Alex Auld as the team's second goaltender.
Elliott has tried to earn that spot by allowing seven goals in his last four appearances. A victory Wednesday would give him the longest win streak of his young career and help Ottawa to its first four-game run at home since Nov. 22-Dec. 6.
In Monday night's 2-1 win over Toronto, he shut out the Maple Leafs over the final 55:12, allowing the Senators to rally on second-period goals from Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley.
"A good effort," Alfredsson said. "I don't think we started great, but we grew as the game went on and protected the lead really well. We didn't give them a lot of chances in the third."
With 12 goals in their last three games, the Senators are hardly playing like one of the league's worst offensive teams - 2.54 goals per game. Ottawa, however, still relies mainly on its top three scorers - Alfredsson, Heatley and Jason Spezza - who have accounted for 76 of the team's 165 goals.
Heatley has been the most consistent of the three lately with 10 goals and 15 points in his last 13 games. He has seven goals and 16 points in his last 12 meetings with Tampa Bay (21-32-13), while Alfredsson has 25 points in the past 16.
They'll face a Lightning team that's near the bottom of the league in goals allowed per game (3.21) and is coming off its worst performance of the season.
In a 9-3 loss to visiting Carolina on Saturday night, Karri Ramo gave up six goals in the first 26:03 before giving way to Mike McKenna, who allowed another three in the final 7:12 of the second period.
"A team stinker," interim coach Rick Tocchet said. "Every single guy contributed."
Tocchet's team has been outscored 29-19 in a 1-4-1 stretch and has allowed three goals or more in 11 of its last 13.
After winning eight straight over the Lightning, Ottawa is 5-3-2 in the last 10 and has split the last four meetings at home. This season, Tampa Bay earned a 3-2 shootout win at home Nov. 1, and the Senators won 2-0 in Ottawa on Dec. 13.
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