Auld gets a shot to once again prove himself

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- When Alex Auld skates to the crease tonight, he will have a huge gorilla on his back.

The Senators goalie will be looking for his first win in almost two months.

With Brian Elliott getting a breather, Auld will make his first start in 24 days, since a Jan. 6 loss in Buffalo. It was his seventh 'L' in a row, dropping his record to 9-11-5. Auld last sampled the sweet taste of victory Dec. 6, and hasn't won on the road since Oct. 30.

"I'd been feeling pretty good, and wasn't getting results," said Auld, who has a 2.64 GAA and .907 save percentage. "It was one of those things where a couple of bad bounces, things happen ... all of a sudden you're not getting the same results as I was before. The biggest thing is not to look at results. Results matter, but you've got to focus on the process, your technique ... there are so many things out of your control. If you start worrying about that stuff, you start getting into your own head to much."

Auld has been "trying to be a good teammate" and be as prepared as possible, but most of all, trying to stay as prepared as possible.

When he wrested the starter's job from Martin Gerber, he couldn't have been prepared for this.

Staying true to form and refusing to declare a No. 1 goalie, coach Craig Hartsburg made it clear the job is Elliott's to lose.

"We're in the one-day-at-a-time thing here," Hartsburg said. "Brian is a guy we brought in to give us a spark and he's played pretty well for us. We don't want to look too far ahead in this whole thing, No. 1 or whatever. (Elliott's) a guy we want to give an opportunity right now to prove himself. (Tonight) Alex will get an opportunity to contribute. We'll worry about the next day after that."

Asked if he felt the reins were still up for grabs, Auld said it was tough to answer.

"I don't know. I believe if I play well, and keep playing well, I'm going to play games," he said. "Whether it's every game, half the games, quarter of the games, that's not for me to say. I just have to make sure I'm worried about playing well when I'm in net, and force decisions that are difficult for the coaching staff."

Right now, the decision is to start a guy who's having trouble winning in another must-win game.

Starts and stops

Being at the Scottrade Center brought back warm memories for Chris Phillips, the first player selected in the 1996 draft in St. Louis. "I remember it was one of the hottest days of my lifetime," Phillips said. Asked if he thought he was going to be picked by the Senators that day, Phillips replied, "the only thing I was pretty certain of is that if they didn't, San Jose was going to." It'd be hell playing with those struggling Sharks right now, wouldn't it? When the topic of his minus-21 rating (before last night's game) was brought up, it was clear the stat doesn't sit well with the big defenceman. Still, when a reporter pointed out that minus-21 is pretty cold, the Big Rig chuckled. "Not where I come from," said the product of Fort McMurray, Alta. "It's a nice day."

Between periods

Senators equipment man Scott Allegrino knows better than to shove a cap in any goalie's face, especially a goalie that has just been given the hook. That was the dumb mistake made by the member of the Russian team's support staff who felt the wrath of Ray Emery in a KHL game Wednesday. "I'm not saying what (Emery) did was right, but with experience you learn that you have to give a guy some time after he's been pulled, let him relax," Allegrino said when asked about the episode captured on YouTube that shows Emery chasing the hat man down the hall and taking a swing at him. "What I will say is that in my seven years with Rayzor, he was nothing but very polite to me. He treated me with respect. But I guess when he snaps, he snaps."

Things that make you go hmmm...

The locker stall of the always very organized Chris Kelly was a mess when he returned from the morning skate. Rolled-up tape, crumpled newspaper, chewed-up gum, broken hockey pants, brand-new skate laces. Kelly knew the identity of the practical jokers. Chris Neil's game-day ritual is to discard new laces for his own cut-and-tied-together pair. And Antoine Vermette had a guilty look on his face. Kelly vowed revenge. "They'll know when I strike," he said. "It'll be quick. And deadly." ... For the record, Jesse Winchester is no relation to Brad Winchester, the big Blues forward who scored the team's goal last night. "Never even met him," said Ottawa's Winchester.

The bottom lines

No coach enjoys a crowd of reporters more than the Blues' Andy Murray, who in the middle of yesterday's morning scrum looked up to see his audience expanding (by numbers). "Holy smokes, we must be playing a Canadian team," exclaimed Murray. Among his gems: "We work hard, we just haven't had a lot of saves," and, "Manny (Legace) is 100% (healthy), he's our No. 1 (goalie), but Chris Mason is our No. 1 guy tonight," and, "Our guys play a physical game of golf," regarding the season-ending knee injury suffered by first overall pick Erik Johnson, who reportedly got his foot caught between the brake and accelerator of a golf cart in September, and, about rookie T.J. Oshie, "you know who he reminds me of? Adam Deadmarsh. Hard-nosed kid, he can shoot it, he's a right-handed shot and he plays with a little bit of an edge. I wouldn't say he's as tough as Deader was, but he reminds me of Adam, and I coached Adam, so that's high compliment from me. He reminds me of Deadmarsh the way he dislikes off-ice training, too, but we hope to change that," and, about leading scorer Brad Boyes and his minus-22 rating, "Brad has dynamic hands, but he's got to remember to play the game with his legs, too. When players start playing the game with their hands, they get themselves in trouble. Defence is usually with your legs. You can't have your leading scorer minus-22. That's why we're 15th in the league. We have to have more players on the plus side of the ledger," and, about Alex Steen, "(his father) Thomas and I are good friends. I coached Thomas. If Alex starts playing like his father, we'll have a real good one."


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