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McElhinney bolts into Sens goaltending spotlight

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Curtis McElhinney makes his first goaltending start for the Sens tonight against the Lightning in Tampa, Fla. Ottawa earlier claimed the stopper off waivers from the Bolts (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Finally, Curtis McElhinney will get a taste of some hockey at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The 27-year-old native of London, Ont., gets his first Senators start in goal tonight when Ottawa continues its road trip against the Lightning in Tampa, Fla. (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200). McElhinney was claimed on waivers from the Bolts on Feb. 28.

In the eyes of Senators head coach Cory Clouston, it's a chance to give a night off to Craig Anderson, who's been between the pipes for nine straight games since being obtained in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche for Brian Elliott. Even if it's tough to sit a guy who's posted a 6-3-0 record since coming to Ottawa with a 1.44 goals-against average and .956 save percentage.

"Craig has played a lot of hockey in a short period of time," Clouston said earlier today. "It's just a real good time to give him a little bit of rest. He's still going to carry the majority of our games (the rest of the way), but it's a good chance to get Curtis in."

Oddly enough, it'll also be McElhinney's first chance to play in Tampa. The Lightning obtained him in a swap of goaltenders with the Anaheim Ducks, but was put on waivers before seeing any action with the Bolts. Now he'll tend the visitors' goal tonight, though Clouston is doing his best to keep all of the focus off his stopper.

"Our whole conversation (this morning) had nothing to do with Curtis being in net tonight," said Clouston. "It had to do with how we want to play, how we want to improve on little areas from last night (a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers) and what we want to continue to do tonight. That's what we're going to focus on.

"I don't want to make (McElhinney) any more nervous or more of a focal point than need be."

The Senators won the first two games of their current road trip by a 2-1 count with a similar formula — rock-solid goaltending from Anderson and a pair of goals from a guy named Erik. Tuesday night in Newark, N.J., it was rookie forward Erik Condra potting a pair against the Devils. Last night, blueliner Erik Karlsson hit the back of the net twice to sink the Panthers.

While Anderson isn't the man in goal tonight, Clouston believes the Senators can continue to prosper with more of the same play they used to support their goaltender.

"We just have to play well in front of (McElhinney)," he said. "Last night, we gave up 11 chances, which is where we want to be right now. And we've got to continue to play well defensively. When you consider the (amount of) penalty kills we had last night, 11 is a real good number. Most of their shots were from the perimeter. If we can control the neutral zone, we feel we can eliminate and keep their chances down. We have to continue to do that."

Around the boards

The Bolts and Senators have met only once previously this season, with Tampa taking a 2-1 victory home from Scotiabank Place on Jan. 8. They play twice more this month — March 19 in Ottawa and March 29 at St. Pete Times Forum ... Karlsson's two-goal effort against the Panthers was the third multi-goal game of his career. He also recorded 10 shots in the contest, only the second time in modern franchise history that a Sens blueliner has hit double digits in that department. Jason York notched 12 against the New York Islanders on Jan. 30, 1999 ... The Senators close out their four-game road trip Sunday in Buffalo against the Sabres (5 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) ... Ottawa's next home game is Tuesday, when former Senators forward Alex Kovalev and the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

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