Senators 'keeper playing for a job

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 PM ET

Moments after the Senators hosed down their flaming foes Thursday, longtime broadcaster and former goaltending great Chico Resch figured he had just witnessed the best puck-stopping performance against New Jersey all season.

Handing the Devils only their fourth regulation loss in 29 games with a special, 33-save exhibit was Curtis McElhinney who, for those having lost track, would be the sixth Senators goalie of the 2010-11 campaign.

Not to jump the gun, but the way McElhinney and Craig Anderson have played, for the most part, dare we say this team has finally got it right?

Meanwhile, both can become unrestricted free agents in July, with Anderson much more in demand and certain of landing a job elsewhere if the Senators decide he is charging too much for his services.

McElhinney, with his fourth NHL team in the last calendar year, has no such guarantees.

“You certainly can’t have any nights off here,” the 27-year-old said of the opportunity he’s getting from the Senators in the season’s final month.

“There’s the fact that I do need a job next year, and I want to make the most of it. I want to prove to Ottawa that I’m capable of playing in this league, at a competitive level.

“And I want to prove it to everyone else in the dressing room here. So it’s one of those things I have to stay extremely focused and be sharp, but enjoy the ride.”

You’ve got to think he’s had a smile on his face under that mask during his two starts with the Senators. 

McElhinney has given up four goals on 85 shots over three games, including a spot in relief of Anderson last Sunday against the Sabres. But in the games he’s had the crease from outset, he has stopped 67-of-69 shots to beat New Jersey and Tampa.

He’s quite likely to get another crack at the Lightning Saturday at Scotiabank Place, as Anderson is dealing with a minor injury that prevented him from practising Friday.

‘Great attitude’

“He’s worked hard, he’s had a great attitude since he’s gotten here and he played very well (Thursday) night,” coach Cory Clouston said of McElhinney.

“I think he’s using (the contract situation) to motivate himself. I think he’s still focusing on what he has to do, but obviously that’s going to be in the back of his head. It has to be, to a certain extent. But he hasn’t let that be a distraction.”

Now, McElhinney’s not the second coming of Martin Brodeur. Since turning pro in 2007, McElhinney has played in 63 NHL games and has a record of 17-23-4. His goals-against average (3.12) and save-percentage (.898) are nothing to write home about. 

He is a backup goalie.

“We’ve learned things can change with goaltenders,” Clouston said when asked how many games McElhinney would get the rest of the way. “Basically, whenever you get the opportunity make the most of it. He’s played that role before. He’s comfortable with it.”

He’d also be more than happy with getting back in the paint Saturday.

“It was a nice game (Thursday night) and it’s obviously a good continuation from the Tampa win (a week earlier), and to stop the slide we had the last couple of games feels good as well,” said McElhinney. “I’ve come into this situation where things feel pretty good, obviously, and getting off to a good start certainly helps that.

“I feel good about the environment right now. It’s an enjoyable place to be playing.

“I’d love for it to be a part of my future. Obviously, I need work next year, and I feel comfortable with everybody in the dressing room. 

“It’s a young group of guys who are great to get along with, and everybody’s working hard and having fun and we’re finding ways to win games.”


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