|“It’s been nice to get a few games here,” McElhinney said. “I’ve felt more and more comfortable each time I’ve gotten in there. The bottom line is, I’ll take what I can get. I have no complaints.” |
It is an unfamiliar position Curtis McElhinney has found himself in lately with the Ducks.
The 26-year-old goaltender has started three straight games and won each of them for the club in place of the injured Jonas Hiller
, who has been out with back spasms. Since being acquired from Calgary (in exchange for Vesa Toskala) on March 3, McElhinney is undefeated (4-0-0) with a 1.98 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in five games played with Anaheim.
Playing so frequently has not been a regular pattern for McElhinney since he debuted in 2007. Serving as the Flames backup to Miikka Kiprusoff, who played in more games than any other NHL goalie during that span, McElhinney was never given the chance to start in back-to-back games and only saw time in a total of 29 contests (14 starts).
“For me, this has been a lot of action compared to the last couple of years,” McElhinney said. “It was usually one game and regardless of the outcome, always back to Kiprusoff. It was extremely tough. It could be two weeks or six weeks between games. You never know.”
Getting traded to the Ducks brought a welcomed change of scenery and the hope of even a little more experience in games. His first two appearances with the club came in relief, the second being a come-from-behind victory against the Islanders on March 19.
|“He’s been in a situation that is not easy, but he is a pro and understands,” said Carlyle of McElhinney. “He is very professional and workmanlike in his attitude and how he prepares himself." |
After making his first start in an Anaheim uniform last Friday at Edmonton, it looked like McElhinney would again be pushed right back to the bench for Monday’s game against the Stars. But Hiller experienced some tightness in his back during the warm-up, clearing the way for McElhinney to get an extra look. He has responded by stopping 57-of-60 shots in the last two games.
“It’s been nice to get a few games here,” McElhinney said. “I’ve felt more and more comfortable each time I’ve gotten in there. The bottom line is, I’ll take what I can get. I have no complaints.”
When given extensive playing time previously in his career, McElhinney has proven to be a quality goaltender with a penchant for winning. In four years at Colorado College from 2001-2005, he strung together a 62-16-8 record to go along with a 2.32 GAA and .912 save percentage. That earned him NCAA All-America honors in 2003 (Second Team) and 2005 (First Team).
Drafted by the Flames in the sixth round (176th overall selection) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, he signed with the organization in August 2005. And he picked up in the AHL right where he left off at Colorado, totaling a 64-49-5 record, 2.27 GAA and .914 save percentage over parts of the three seasons with Omaha and Quad City. He was also named to the AHL Second All-Star Team following the 2006-07 season.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been in this role,” said McElhinney of being a backup in the league. “Sometimes when you get in there and you have a good game, you want to keep playing and get on a roll. But that is the job I’m in right now. We’ll try to make the most of it.”
|“I wanted to come here and make an impression,” McElhinney said. “I’ve been given an opportunity to do that and so far, the result has been good. The guys have been great and everybody has been super nice to me. It’s been a lot of fun.” |
Granted a string of starts for the first time in his career, he has doubled his career win total the last two weeks. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle praised the mindset McElhinney has brought to the rink regardless of his playing status.
“He’s been in a situation that is not easy, but he is a pro and understands,” Carlyle said. “He is very professional and workmanlike in his attitude and how he prepares himself. Just a prime example was the other night against Dallas. He was not preparing to play, but was ready. He played very well for us.”
The strong showing by McElhinney has also eased the pressure for Hiller to rush back to the lineup from his injury. The Swiss netminder can take the time he needs to get fully recovered from his recent bout with back spasms.
“That is awesome to have somebody like that jumping in,” said Hiller of McElhinney. “I really appreciate having him around. He has the chance to play and he has shown why he is in this league. It makes it easier to recover if you know the other guy is playing well and is having success. If the team was losing, I would have to be back as soon as possible. It gives me confidence in taking my time and being back when it is better.”
In the meantime, McElhinney will continue to relish getting a long-awaited chance to see regular ice time and hopefully keep the Ducks on the winning track as the end of the regular season nears.
“I wanted to come here and make an impression,” he said. “I’ve been given an opportunity to do that and so far, the result has been good. The guys have been great and everybody has been super nice to me. It’s been a lot of fun.”