The battle for the No. 1 goaltending job with the St. Louis Blues remains an open competition with the season less than two weeks away.
Jake Allen, who finished the season as the Blues' starting goaltender and struggled in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, is vying for the job with Brian Elliott, who started 13 more games than Allen last season but missed a month with a knee injury and was outplayed by Allen down the stretch.
"We're starting clean and fresh," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We've got two good goalies. If someone goes out and grabs it, we're going to give him the job. We're going to give him that responsibility. If both guys play equal, we're back down the same path. But if one guy does jump and go, we're going to go with him.
"When the season starts, we're going to let whoever takes the job evolve. So we're not going to anoint anybody. We're just going to let it evolve and hopefully somebody grabs it. I don't know that we want to get into where we're creating the sharing. We want the play of the goalies to determine who gets more, who gets less."
Allen, 25, started for the Blues during the Western Conference First Round against the Minnesota Wild and was 2-4 with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. The Wild won the series in six games. He was 22-7-4 with a 2.28 GAA, a .913 save percentage and four shutouts during the regular season.
"Anointing someone with the way it finished [last season] isn't realistic," Hitchcock said.
Elliott, 30, was 26-14-3 last season with a 2.26 GAA, a .917 save percentage and five shutouts. Hitchcock decided to start Allen in the playoffs for the way he performed over the final month of the regular season.
"We turned away twice because of injury, not because of play," Hitchcock said. "It's unfortunate that he got hurt, but when he got hurt, the other guy jumped on it last year so that's the way we went. Jake had a great finish and so that's the way we went, but I would say overall, Elliott had the better year."
Allen signed a two-year, $4.7 million contract on July 3. Elliott has two years left on his three-year, $7.5 million contract.
"We're going to need both of them, but I'm looking to see if someone just flat-out grabs it and runs with it," Hitchcock said. "You'd like someone to literally stand on his head and say, 'This is mine.' That's what you'd like to have happen. Whoever it is, it is."
The Blues open the 2015-16 season on Oct. 8 against the Edmonton Oilers at Scottrade Center. They follow that up with a six-game road trip, so it's like Allen and Elliott will receive playing time over that stretch.
"We barely know which games we're playing in exhibition right now," Allen said. "I just think we have the mentality, we're both in good shape and in good spirits. If we have to rotate every game, if he gets the first couple of games, then great. If I get the first couple games, then great. But I know we're each going to be [striving] to get in net. Ells is a guy that works hard every day and wants to be in that net, and I'm the same way.
"I'm not exactly sure how it???s going to go. But my goal is to take every day as a new opportunity and prove that I want to be the guy on the first night. We'll go from there."