|Alex Auld is eager to join what figures to be a fierce goaltending battle when the Senators assemble for training camp in September (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images).
Change is inevitable when you don't reach the playoffs in the National Hockey League.
While Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray expects to make some moves in the wake of the team's first post-season miss in 12 seasons, there's at least one area that doesn't figure to require much of his attention. That would be at the goaltending position, where trade deadline acquisition Pascal Leclaire figures to give a boost to the tandem of Brian Elliott and Alex Auld
, who performed capably down the stretch.
"We've got three (goaltenders) now," said Murray. "They all think they're No. 1. I like that. That's where we are at this point in time. I don't know that there's any reason to try to change that, unless somebody came along and made a huge offer to me over the summer."
It's generally assumed that Leclaire, the former starter with the Columbus Blue Jackets, will slide into the same role in Ottawa. But Auld and Elliott are both hungry to get their share of minutes in 2009-10, after each saw plenty of action with the Senators this season. Auld posted a 16-18-7 record with a 2.47 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, while Elliott went 16-8-3 with a 2.77 GAA and .902 save percentage.
Both are heading into the summer in the same frame of mind – positive about the way the past season finished, but eager for even better things in the campaign to come.
"I feel pretty good about my year," said Auld, who was signed to a two-year contract as a free agent last summer. "I had no idea how many games I'd play coming here, and there were stretches when I was able to play a lot. I feel that I was able to maintain a fairly high level of consistency.
"You want to improve every year moving forward but (the season) was okay. It's tough to evaluate when you're not where you want to be, but I think I can step back and say I did some good things."
Elliott began the season in the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Senators, hopeful he'd get the call at some point. He wound up seeing action in 31 games, with Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston declaring him the team's most improved player since the start of the season.
"I had no idea how many games I'd play coming here and there were stretches when I was able to play a lot. I feel that I was able to maintain a fairly high level of consistency ... I think I can step back and say I did some good things." - Alex Auld
"Sometimes, it' s hard to look at the big picture," said Elliott, 23, in assessing his season. "You focus on the last game that you played and you just want to get better every day. But I accomplished the goal of being an AHL all-star and getting up into the NHL and succeeding to a point that I was happy with.
"You just have to look at it as a whole, and I think I've improved a lot over one season. I'm just excited for next season to get into the weight room and start summer sessions with my goalie coach (Mike Valley), working hard and trying to get better even more than last year."
With Leclaire now in the mix, it figures to be a fierce battle between the pipes when training camp begins in September. Auld, for one, is ready for the challenge.
"I feel I played well enough to make it tough on Bryan to make decisions," he said. "We'll see what happens. Ultimately, that's a question for him. I'm just going to prepare as hard as I can this summer so coming into camp, I'm ready to go and ready to earn ice time."