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McElhinney prepared for another NHL chance

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Curtis McElhinney is well aware of the situation.

He spent a full season in the American Hockey League (AHL) last year with the Springfield Falcons motivated to get another chance in the NHL. When he was acquired by the Blue Jackets in the Antoine Vermette deal of February 2012, McElhinney wasn't able to play due to an abdominal injury. 

McElhinney, who has spent time in the NHL with now five different teams throughout his career, hit the unrestricted free agent market later that summer for all of an hour before signing with the Blue Jackets. They were offering him a chance to find his game again and get a lot of playing time on a team that needed a steady presence between the pipes.

In what was a franchise record-setting 2012-13 season for the Falcons, McElhinney was their MVP. He was top-five in several AHL goaltending statistics and led Springfield to its first playoff appearance in a decade, and earned himself a one-way contract with Columbus this past offseason.

"The goal last year was to get one more opportunity and to have a shot up here," McElhinney said. "Obviously, that's the case this year and hopefully I'll make the most of it."

A wise veteran at 31 years old, McElhinney knows he will the back-up to Sergei Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. But there's a benefit to having a defined role, he said, and knowing what's expected on a nightly basis.

Staying sharp both physically and mentally is going to be his biggest challenge, he said, but it's one he is prepared to meet.

"There's certainly no controversy there," McElhinney joked. "The main opportunity was to get back here, and I'm at a point in my career now where it's a make-it-or-break-it thing. Columbus was enough to give me that chance and hopefully I'll pay them back.

"In terms of games or what to expect during the season, I think it's all going to depend on where we're at and what's going on with Bob."

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