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Senators have faith in Elliott

by Adam Kimelman
PITTSBURGH -- Experience goes a long way in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the fact that Ottawa Senators goalie Brian Elliott will be starting his first NHL playoff game Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC) doesn't have his teammates worried at all.

"He's been protecting us all year," center Jason Spezza said. "He's been great. He's a real confident guy. He's very focused. His confidence has grown. He's the least of our worries. He's been real good and brought us a lot of confidence. We've got nothing to worry about with him."

Elliott, who supplanted Pascal Leclaire as the starting goalie this season, went 29-18-4 with a 2.57 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and five shutouts in 55 games. He also put together nine- and six-game win streaks, and was a major factor in the Senators getting back to the postseason in 2009-10.

But what Elliott, 25, lacks is any kind of professional postseason resume. Wednesday will be the 50th NHL playoff game for Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, also 25.

"The playoffs are a lot more pressure, a lot more on the line," Senators center Mike Fisher said. "He hasn't faced it like their goaltender has. But it's still a game, (and) he's had a great year. He's shown he's improved throughout the season and we believe he's going to be great in the playoffs."

Senators coach Cory Clouston said if his team plays the right way, Elliott won't feel any more pressure than he did in the regular season.

"We just have to play a smart, solid team game, no different than we've done all season," Clouston said.

Clouston also said he had no doubt Elliott could follow in the footsteps of unproven goalies who had playoff success.

"We talk about experience, but we've seen examples in goaltending of a young guy coming in and he takes a team right to the (Stanley Cup) Final," Clouston said. "We see a guy like (Carolina's) Cam Ward has had a lot of success in that regard. You go back over the years and there's been a lot of goaltenders that have come in and played very well.

"We expect Brian to play well. We're going to give him a lot of support and stay with our team game."

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