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Elliott moves into goaltending spotlight for Sens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Goaltender Brian Elliott, who finished the 2009-10 season as the Senators starter, will see his first action of the pre-season tonight in Toronto against the Maple Leafs  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

Robin Lehner made quite the statement in the Ottawa Senators' pre-season opener.

Now it's Brian Elliott's turn to begin having his say.

When the Senators and Maple Leafs play a rematch tonight at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, it'll be the veteran Elliott moving between the pipes for Ottawa. With Mike Brodeur still unavailable due to illness, Elliott is slated to play the full 60 minutes this evening.

"Play well. Stop the puck," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said earlier today when asked what he'd like to see out of Elliott starting tonight. "And consistency. He's no different than the rest of our team. We want him to play at the highest level he can and be consistent."

The 25-year-old Elliott seized the starter's job from Pascal Leclaire by the end of last season but he knows the slate is clean at the beginning of a new one. It was Leclaire who wound up in the Ottawa net for the final two games of the Senators' opening-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The training camp scrutiny of the duo has already begun.

"They're not only looking at the game, they're looking at every practice," Elliott said with reference to the Senators' management and coaching staff. "Everything you do, they're watching. But you can't really put too much pressure on yourself. It's just get back into the game, feel things and try to communicate with your D-men. "

Lehner, the organization's top goaltending prospect, was a standout in Tuesday night's 5-0 blanking of the Leafs at the ACC, stopping all 24 shots he faced. While acknowledging it's ultimately general manager Bryan Murray's call, Clouston suggested the 19-year-old Lehner could make camp decisions interesting if he continues his strong play. He certainly gave them all an eyeful on Tuesday night.

"If he keeps playing the way he did last night, it'll be pretty hard to not have him here," said Clouston. "He can't do any more than he did last night. We'll play it game by game and if he forces us to do something that we never maybe envisioned at the start of camp, then that's a positive thing for us in the organization. That gives us a lot more depth in a position that's very, very important."

Elliott, meanwhile, welcomes any kind of goaltending competition.

"I think it can only make you better," he said. "You don't want to get complacent in the net and feel like you own it or anything like that. It's good to have the opportunity to battle it out and it makes it better for our team in the long run."

Around the boards

Wearing the alternate captain's 'A' for tonight's game will be Jarkko Ruutu, Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon ... Clouston on Roman Wick's pre-season debut as a Senator: "I thought he was all right. That's about it. He needs to be better if he's going to make our hockey club. He's got to be more assertive, he's got to utilize his skills and compete a little harder" ... Clouston on defenceman Jared Cowen, who'll play a second straight game: "I thought he used his body and size well last night. A couple times with the puck, he didn't move the puck fast enough, but the pace is a little quicker than it is in practice. He did a good job on the penalty kill, blocked some shots and used his reach as well." ... The Senators' pre-season home-opener is Saturday, when the Montreal Canadiens visit Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers TV, Team 1200) ... Friday's matchup between the teams at the Bell Centre in Montreal is being televised by RIS Info-Sports.

The Senators roster for tonight's rematch with the Leafs:

Goaltenders: Brian Elliott, Robin Lehner.

Defence: André Benoit, Jared Cowen, David Hale, Erik Karlsson, Brian Lee, Patrick Wiercioch.

Forwards: Cody Bass, Bobby Butler, Nick Foligno, Mike Hoffman, Francis Lessard, Jim O'Brien, Peter Regin, Jarkko Ruutu, Ryan Shannon, Zack Smith, Roman Wick, Jesse Winchester.

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