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Sens acquire Anderson with intent of keeping him

by Rick Sadowski
CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- In a swap involving struggling goalies and underachieving teams, the Colorado Avalanche acquired Brian Elliott from the Ottawa Senators on Friday in exchange for Craig Anderson.

Elliott told Denver reporters in a conference call that "shock" was his initial reaction. "You never really think you're going to get traded," he said. "But with things going on here in Ottawa, there's going to be some changes."

Elliott, 25, won't join the Avalanche until next week because he's a Canadian citizen and is in the process of securing the proper paperwork to work for a U.S.-based team.

"Right now, it's an immigration issue," he said.

Peter Budaj will start in goal in San Jose on Saturday when the Avalanche attempts to end a nine-game losing streak. John Grahame, recalled from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League, will be his backup.

Anderson, 29, flew immediately to Ottawa and was on the bench before the end of the first period as Robin Lehner's backup for the Senators' game against Boston at Scotiabank Place.

"He has a bright future ahead of him," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of Elliott after practice at the South Suburban Family Sports Center. "We're real excited to have him join our team and have him join our organization. He's young, he's talented and he's got a good upside. It's a good fit for us."

Elliott went 13-19-8 this season with three shutouts, a 3.19 goals-against average and .894 save percentage for the Senators, whose 18 wins and 45 points in 57 games put them last in the Eastern Conference and next-to-last in the NHL, one point ahead of Edmonton.

Elliott went 29-18-4 with five shutouts, a 2.57 average and a .909 save percentage last season when the Senators finished fifth in the East before losing to Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs.

"If we knew what the difference was from last year, we'd change it pretty quick," he said. "I think we're all competitive athletes at this level. We all want to win. It can get frustrating sometimes. For some reason, things didn't click for guys. Nobody's having a breakout season in Ottawa. It's tough. I think that's why changes come. Guys are being sent different ways. I think it's good for everybody to get a different scenery. I'm no different. Hopefully that change will be beneficial."

Has Elliott's confidence been shaken by this season's regression?

"That's a good question," he said. "I think obviously when you're not winning, you do look for answers in different ways. I felt that I came to the rink every day with a positive attitude, wanting to get better every day and not getting too frustrated. You've got to look at every day as a new day, a new opportunity to get better.

"I'm looking forward to coming in and doing my best to provide a backstop, give the guys a chance to win. I know it's kind of been rough here in Ottawa and been rough the last 10 games in Colorado as well. Hopefully the change in environment will help."

A ninth-round pick (No. 291) in the 2003 Entry Draft, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Elliott played four years at the University of Wisconsin and led the Badgers to the 2006 NCAA championship.

"Ever since college, (Denver) has been one of my favorite cities to visit," he said. "I was part of a goalie camp at Denver in the summer time. That was fun. It's a different place weather-wise than up here in northeast Canada. The whole city, the vibe, it's a really healthy city, lots of walking paths and dog parks. I'm definitely excited to be around that."

Elliott owns a career record of 59-45-15 in 130 NHL games with nine shutouts, a 2.81 average and .903 save percentage. He is making $900,000 and will be a restricted free agent on July 1.

"It's the right thing to do," Senators coach Cory Clouston told Ottawa reporters of the trade. "It's a new fresh start for Elliott. He didn't have the support that he needed. There was so much pressure put on him."

The same could be said of Anderson, who has a 13-15-3 record with a 3.28 goals-against average and .897 save percentage. Anderson has lost six consecutive decisions since a 4-3 win over Vancouver on Jan. 18. The Avs have dropped to 14th place in the Western Conference with 57 points, 11 out of a playoff spot.

"I don't know the exact reasons (why Anderson slipped this year)," Sacco said. "He missed some time at the beginning of the year with an injury that may have set him back a little bit."

Anderson missed three games with a groin injury and 10 games with a knee injury he suffered during warmups on Oct. 26 in Vancouver.

Signed as a free agent on July 1, 2009, Anderson played in a franchise-record 71 games last season and went 38-25-7 with seven shutouts, a 2.64 average and .917 save percentage The Avalanche finished eighth in the West with 95 points -- a 26-point improvement – and lost to San Jose in the opening round of the playoffs.

"The good thing about it is we get a chance for 20-something games to look and watch him," Ottawa GM Bryan Murray said, "and during that time period I would think we'll have discussions and we'll see where we want to be, where he wants to be. He seemed very excited when I talked to him.

"We have unrestricted people rated and I hope the ratings are right. We think he's one of the guys that are going to be available this summer that we liked. We'll investigate this way."

Anderson is making $2.1 million in the final year of a two-year contract and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season.

"He had a real solid season for us last year," Sacco said. "He played very well. For whatever reasons, things weren't working out quite the same this year. I think for both parties it was the right move. Craig gets a fresh start there and Brian gets a fresh start here."

Despite Anderson's lackluster season, Murray believes that's more a part of the Avs' team-wide struggles.

"I think Colorado's numbers have slipped totally," Murray said. "And there's a relationship both ways, goaltending and the team overall."

Sacco said that Elliott would compete with Budaj for playing time.

"The job's open," he said. "There will be some competition for that spot. We're going to give Brian an opportunity to see where he's at and how he fits in and give him a chance to play. We're in a situation where we're looking for some results right now."

Budaj has started the past four games and has a 12-11-4 record with one shutout, a 3.17 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.

"I had a good relationship with Andy and we both know this is the nature of the business," Budaj said. "I was able to get here right when he was leaving. It's tough to see a friend go, but he's a professional and he knows this is how this business works. Any professional athlete can tell you that when the results for a team sport are not there, there's going to be changes made. That's what happened now to spark our team and get us going.

"I don't know Brian Elliott personally, but I've heard good stuff about him. He's a hard-working guy and right now Brian is in the same shape as me and we're going to try to battle each other for playing time and try to help the team to be successful."
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