Elliott rollin' since Leclaire deal

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Brian Elliott's eyes light up as he speaks of the rush he felt playing the drums on stage -- behind a guitar-pickin' Wade Redden -- at an Ottawa night spot a while back.

But when it comes to his full-time job, Elliott's stare is cold and hard.

He doesn't blink at the prospect of facing the NHL's top shooter in a showdown, nor does the 291st player selected in the 2003 draft bat a lid at the thought of having to wrestle the eighth pick of the 2001 entry draft for the Senators' No. 1 goaltending job next season.

"It's not like you're not trying before that happens," Elliott said yesterday when asked about the way he has reacted to Ottawa's acquisition of Pascal Leclaire at the trade deadline. "You're trying to get on a roll. The team started playing better in front of me, and I benefited from that.

"You try to do the same thing every day. It's nothing different. I don't think I responded differently than I would any other day."

Elliott, 23, has shone since the Senators decided they needed to improve their goaltending by dealing Antoine Vermette for Leclaire.

He has won all five of his starts, including a 4-3 shootout Pittsburgh on Saturday in which he made a pair of outstanding stops off veteran Bill Guerin in the first period then stoned 4-of-5 Penguins (including Evgeni Malkin, the league's No. 1 scorer) in the shootout.

"It's a process," said coach Cory Clouston, who will almost certainly start Elliott tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. "You can't take a four- or five-game fragment of the season and project the kid's future at that age. He's improved. As I said the other day, he might be our most improved player in our organization, from where he was last season to where he is now, and the success he has had overall since he's been up.

"Absolutely, there's areas he has to be better ... But overall, I think his performance has been very good."

The Senators must decide if they want to go with a 1-2 punch of Leclaire and Elliott next season -- thus making Alex Auld expendable -- or give Elliott plenty of ice time in Binghamton.

'ABOUT THE NOW'

It's up to Elliott to continue to show this season that he belongs in the NHL.

"Talking with my family, talking with my agent, worry about it in the summer," Elliott said when asked his approach to the big picture. "I have to prove myself right now, and I have an opportunity to do that.

"Why think about the future when all you have to do is worry about the now?"

MR. CLUTCH: C Mike Fisher has scored or assisted on the game-winner in seven of the Senators' last nine regular-season overtime wins dating back to 2005-06. When he settled last week's game against Tampa in the extra five, it was his second OT goal of the campaign. He set up Jason Smith's goal in Ottawa's other overtime victory this season.

"I knew I had done well in overtime, but I wasn't aware of the stat," Fisher said. "I wish we played a few more overtimes this year, because it's been a struggle."

Fisher is up to fifth in team scoring with 27 points.

"It's not what I want it or expect it to be, but I think it has got better through the season and a little better lately," said Fisher, who had a horrible start. "I just want to finish strong and have a better year next year."

If a few more OTs are on the horizon, all the better.

"I think, with a lot more ice (playing 4-on-4), you can get up speed and make rushes. Plus I usually play with Alfie (Daniel Alfredsson) or Heater (Dany Heatley) too, so I just try and use speed to get pucks to the net and bang in a few. Alfie has given me a few nice passes for a couple of them. But it's just one of those things."

THIS AND THAT: Clouston will start tonight with Ryan Shannon skating alongside Heatley and Jason Spezza, while Alfredsson plays with Fisher and Mike Comrie -- which worked wonders in Saturday's comeback vs. Pittsburgh. "Comrie's been playing really well, Fisher likewise," Alfredsson said. "I should be able to jump in there and give them a little more. Shannon's speed should help Spetz and Heater. I think it looks good." ... Ex-Senators enforcer Brian McGrattan was put on re-entry waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes yesterday ... D Chris Phillips acknowledges the Senators appear to be a different team in the past six weeks. "Things have really been positive around here," he said. "Even the situation we're in. We're going out, working hard and trying to do all the right things. If nothing else, be spoilers and fight to the finish."

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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