Brian Elliott is obviously happy to know he'll enter training camp as the St. Louis Blues' No. 1 goaltender. But at 29 years old and heading into his eighth NHL season, he knows there's no reason to change anything about his preparation or approach.
"I don't think it's that much different than the past three years," Elliott told the team website Thursday. "I've always trained to be the No. 1 guy. You're selling yourself short if you don't. There's a big opportunity for me right now and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I think we're going to be a really good team and I want to be a big part of that."
Goalie - STL
GAA: 1.96 | SVP: .922
Elliott moved to the top spot after the team opted not to re-sign trade-deadline acquisition Ryan Miller
this summer. Last season, his third with the Blues, Elliott went 18-6-2 with four shutouts, a 1.96 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. However, he played six games after Miller was acquired Feb. 28 and watched from the bench when the Blues were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks
in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
When the season ended, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong moved quickly and signed Elliott to a three-year, $7.5 million contract before he could reach unrestricted free agency.
"This is Brian Elliott's job. He's earned it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said earlier this summer. "When we traded for Ryan Miller we were obligated to give Ryan every opportunity, but nobody lost sight of how good Brian Elliott was the whole year."
Elliott said he's ready for the pressure that comes with being the No. 1 goaltender on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
“The sky’s the limit," he said. "You have to believe that with the way we've played the past few seasons. The [only] limits are what you put on yourself. To be one of the top teams you have to believe you're one of the top teams. … Getting older and getting more experienced, I think I'm more ready for that [No. 1 goalie] pace and workload. I want to show that I can do it."
While Elliott is No. 1, it's not an undisputed spot. Top prospect Jake Allen will enter camp as the backup, but he has proven himself at the NHL level in the past; in 2012-13 Allen was called up when Jaroslav Halak was injured and Elliott underperformed, and led all rookie goaltenders with nine wins and a 2.46 GAA.
Elliott remembers those days and knows he has to stay as sharp as possible if he wants to get the majority of the playing time.
"You look at everywhere around [the League], you've got to perform. The younger guys keep coming up. They're not stopping and you're not getting any younger. It's always trying to push yourself, and when you have good people around you they push you as well. It's a good combination."