OTTAWA - Brian Elliott couldn't be happier to be in Ottawa, but the same couldn't be said just over a year ago.
The St. Louis Blues goaltender is back in Ottawa after he was named to the all-star team thanks to his stellar performance this season.
Last year at this time Elliott was the local whipping boy for both the media and Ottawa Senators hockey fans. The young goalie was struggling badly and was eventually traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Craig Anderson in February.
Following his departure no one ever expected to hear Elliott's name in the same sentence as the likes of Boston's Tim Thomas or New York's Henrik Lundqvist, but his performance has merited just that.
The 26-year-old's numbers are incredible: 15 wins in 23 games, 1.69 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and five shutouts. This is in stark contrast to last season in Ottawa with a save percentage under .900, a 3.19 GAA and a record of 13-19-5.
Elliott started the season in St. Louis on a two-way contract, but the Blues have since rewarded the Newmarket, Ont., native with a US$3.6-million, two-year contract extension.
With all that in hand it's no wonder Elliott is happy to return to Ottawa for Sunday's all-star game and perhaps earn a little redemption.
"This is pretty special and not a lot of guys get to do this, especially guys in my situation," said Elliott. "I kind of just have to soak it in right now."
Despite the hard times he experienced in Ottawa, Elliott said he did learn a great deal from the experience.
"Being in this type of market and being under fire every night makes your skin a little tougher than if you were playing in a southern market in Florida," said Elliott. "It's hard at first but once you learn how to deal with it I think you can learn to deal with anything."
Elliott will also be reunited with a number of his former teammates as he was selected by captain Daniel Alfredsson to be part of his team.
"I just think his story is a great story," said Alfredsson. "I know he struggled with us last year and to see him bounce back like this is great. I was really happy to be able to pick him for my team."
Senators star Jason Spezza, also with team Alfredsson, believes Elliott was unfairly treated last season.
"I think (Elliott) got a bit of a tough ride here," said Spezza. "Alfie wanted to make a point and make sure to take (Elliott) on our team. (Elliott) never once complained when he was getting a bit of a rough ride here, he never wavered … I think if you talk to any guy in our dressing room they're really excited to see the year he's having and being a part of this event."
Spezza also believes the fans will welcome Elliott back with a warm reception.
Elliott admits he wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the fans have been great and he's enjoying his return.
"I was pretty surprised," he said. "It's nice to realize everyone's pulling for you and nobody's really booing you unless you're a Maple Leaf. It's a great hockey city and they appreciate everybody."
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