When Brian Elliott
returned to the place where it all began for him in the National Hockey League during All-Star weekend, he was received with open arms.
Those feelings might be a bit more subdued when Elliott returns to Ottawa with the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
The Blues (30-14-7) and Senators (27-21-7) will go head-to-head for the only time this season, and it marks the first time Elliott returns as a visiting player since being dealt to the Colorado Avalanche.
Elliott, who was the lone representative for the Blues at the All-Star Game, will get the start against his former team. There would be added intrigue if Craig Anderson was at the other end in goal, since he was the player the Senators acquired from Colorado in the trade for Elliott on Feb. 18, 2011.
"It's always a little weird going back somewhere where you played before," said Elliott, who is 15-5-2 on the season with an NHL-leading 1.69 goals-against average and second in save percentage at .938. "You go into the visiting dressing room for the first time. You try not to put any emphasis on it. You try to play the same way that you would any other game."
Elliott, who was selected by Ottawa in the ninth round (No. 291) of the 2003 Entry Draft, was 59-45-15 over parts of four seasons with the Senators. His best season came in 2009-10, when he was 29-18-4 with a 2.57 GAA and .909 save percentage. But the 26-year-old's numbers fell to 13-19-8 with a 3.19 GAA and .894 save percentage last season and he was sent packing in a move that enabled both him and Anderson to get fresh starts.
Elliott's season in Colorado did not go according to plan (he was 2-8-1 with a 3.83 GAA and .891 save percentage), but since signing with the Blues over the summer, things have gone better than expected. And in turn, the Blues rewarded Elliott with a two-year contract.
"He was able to find his game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Elliott. "He looked at things, he came back with a new focus and changed some of the things that needed to get changed, and he's been good since."
Elliott, who was able to reminisce and spend time over All-Star weekend with former Sens teammates Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, will turn his attentions on shutting down his friends for one night.
"Obviously you have friends on the other team and that's a little different to play against," Elliott said. "Off the ice, you can be best buddies, but when it's time to play, everybody knows that it's going to be a war out there. Everybody's fighting for spots. You look at games counting down now, it's getting down to the end of the season and it's going to be an important game, for sure.
"Over the break, I had a good time to reminisce and talk to the guys. I don't think I'll be chatting them up as much as I did before. It'll be good to see them, but it'll be a short stay and we want the win."
Hitchcock started Jaroslav Halak
upon his return to Montreal on Jan. 10. He will give Elliott the chance to play against his former team as well.
"It's obvious Brian would like to play in Ottawa," Hitchcock said. "I think that's fair."
Added Elliott: "You want the net as much as you can. You want to play, especially against a former team. That's what makes the game fun. I practiced against those guys for so long. Now you've got a chance to play against them."
Elliott last played two weeks ago in the Blues' 3-2 shootout loss against Pittsburgh on Jan. 24.