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Return to basics has Elliott, Senators streaking

Tuesday, 02.02.2010 / 2:09 PM / Player Profiles

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Return to basics has Elliott, Senators streaking
Brian Elliott says there really hasn't been much of a change in his game, but for the results, which include a 7-game winning streak.
Brian Elliott does not want to get in the way of himself these days, so the streaking Ottawa Senators goaltender is playing it cool and keeping everything about his play close to the vest.

He has just one problem.

How do you hide when you are forcing the spotlight to shine directly on you?

Elliott will put his personal seven-game winning streak on the line Wednesday night in Buffalo as the Senators go for their club-record 10th straight victory since presumed No. 1 goalie Pascal Leclaire suffered a concussion during a morning skate on Jan. 14.

A regulation win in Buffalo would also move the Senators within three points of tying the Sabres for first-place in the Northeast Division.

"What I'm feeling right now is just trying not to get too high or too low, you just keep it on an even keel," Elliott told NHL.com Tuesday before the Senators left for Buffalo. "I'm not feeling any different than before. You feel the same way and try to do the same things in practice and you just know it turns around after a while. It has right now."

Since making a surprise start in Boston on Jan. 18 after rookie Mike Brodeur felt dizzy before the game, Elliott has allowed only eight goals in wins over the Bruins, Blackhawks, Blues, Bruins again, Devils, Penguins and Canadiens.

His goals-against average over his streak is a miniscule 1.32 while his save percentage is an astounding .960. He was the NHL's First Star of the Week ending Jan. 24 and on Monday was named the Second Star of the Week ending Jan. 31.

"I'm not feeling any different than before. You feel the same way and try to do the same things in practice and you just know it turns around after a while. It has right now." -- Brian Elliott

For the season Elliott is 17-11-3 with a 2.50 GAA and .909 save percentage. He's taken full advantage of Leclaire's misfortune. Acquired at the deadline last season to be the Senators No. 1 going forward, Leclaire has missed 25 games due to injury this season.

"Goaltending is probably the biggest factor in the League these days and when your goalie keeps you in games and gives you a chance to make a few mistakes and make up for them later on, it just kind of feeds through the team," Senators center Jason Spezza recently told reporters. "'Ells' has done a good job of that lately and the boys have tried to help him out by giving him a little bit of run support."

Just three weeks ago, the Senators were in shambles and Elliott was dodging bullets from an angry fanbase and an aggressive media.

With Leclaire out with a fractured cheekbone, Elliott made 15 of 16 starts from Nov. 23-Dec. 21, going 7-8-1 with a 2.62 GAA and .903 save percentage. He didn't start again until Jan. 5 against Boston, but was pulled just 13:45 into the game after giving up four goals on 16 shots.

Elliott lost his next start two games later to Florida, 3-0, and in relief of Leclaire on Jan. 12 in Atlanta, he gave up three goals on 14 shots over the final 40 minutes of a 6-1 loss. It was the Senators fifth straight loss and it actually cost goalie coach Eli Wilson his job.

Elliott admits that he was guilty of over-thinking and overanalyzing his game.

"If you're not getting the results you want you try to do things like work harder or you try to change things in your game when sometimes you don't need to," Elliott said. "It's going back to basics and doing what got you here in the first place. Once you get back to that and get things out of your head, if you just let yourself go out and play, that's the key."

He insists that's exactly what he's been doing lately.

Elliott had to sit out the first two games of the Senators current nine-game winning streak because he was sick, but once he got back in just over two weeks ago he stopped analyzing and just started to enjoy playing again.

He did that late last season when he won eight straight starts from March 5-21.

"I'm just out there playing," Elliott said. "I haven't watched myself too much. Once you let your instincts take over you play the way you play best. That's kind of how I'm looking at it. I'm not diagnosing my game right now to see what I do differently. It's just playing and not worrying about if you get scored on. You just stay calm in the net."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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