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Elliott primed to be Flames' No. 1 goaltender

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

CALGARY -- Goaltender Brian Elliott was expecting a fresh start with the Calgary Flames, and he feels he's ready for the opportunity to establish himself as an undisputed No. 1 NHL goaltender.

"It's a really exciting time," said Elliott, acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2018 on June 24.

"As a goalie you want to be wanted. You want to have that opportunity. I'm just excited for that opportunity to play with some of these younger guys, even though I don't feel like an older guy. It's exciting to be a part of that growth. We can only go up, I think. I'm going to do my best to be the backbone of the team and try to be a leader and just do whatever I can to be the rock for the guys on the back end and let the guys do the rest of the work."

Elliott, 31, has earned the chance to be a full-time starter.

Last season he was 23-8-6, led the League with a .930 save percentage, and his 2.07 goals-against average was tied for second with John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks and just off the League-best 2.06 of Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Among goalies with at least 50 games played since 2011-12, Elliott is first in GAA (2.01) and second in save percentage (.925; Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils leads at .926) and shutouts (25; Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings is first with 28).

Elliott has accomplished all that despite sharing playing time with Jake Allen in St. Louis the past three seasons.

"That's what's tough about it," Elliott said. "There's only one net out there and both guys want to play. That's what's tough about trying to be a good partner and a good teammate when both guys want to be in the net. You don't make it to this level without treating every practice, treating every workout, treating every game like a No. 1 goaltender. I like to say you're selling yourself short if you're just going out there to be a backup.

"It's something that I've worked hard for my whole career. Just to get that opportunity, that's all you want. It's what you do with that opportunity."

Elliott offers a new opportunity to for the Flames too.

After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs and advancing to the Western Conference Second Round in 2015, Calgary slumped behind shaky goaltending and finished fifth in the Pacific Division last season.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving opted not to re-sign any of the four goaltenders who played last season, Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Niklas Backstrom and Joni Ortio. They combined for a League-worst .898 save percentage and allowed an NHL-high 257 non-shootout goals against, despite the Flames finishing 11th in shots-against per game (29.0).

"If you look back at the last three or four years, Brian has been a real consistent performer," Treliving said. "And we are looking forward to him bringing that consistency and stabilizing force to our team.

"The No. 1 priority is stopping pucks, but he also brings the personality, the leadership skills, the work ethic. I think those are great attributes of the person. You look at the total package of the player and the person, and we're excited to have him here."

After trading for Elliott, the Flames signed goaltender Chad Johnson to a one-year contract July 1 as the backup. Johnson went 22-16-1 record with a 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage in 45 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season.

"From a personality standpoint I think they're going to get along well," Treliving said. "I think they're going to push each other to be better. Both are excellent teammates. They're going to push our group to be better. I look at the addition of [Elliott] and Chad and I think we have two good goaltenders and two good people, and we're better for it."

Elliott said he knows he has to prove himself as a capable, full-time starter to earn his ice time ahead of Johnson.

"I've always approached it as a competition," Elliott said. "To be a goalie in the NHL … it's kind of a fickle position. If you're not playing well you're not going to be in the net. It doesn't matter what your title is. It's something you always have to be on your toes.

"You want to play your best."

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