NASHVILLE, TENN. • Brian Elliott realizes the arrival of Ryan Miller will limit his playing time the remainder of the season, and perhaps spell the end of his days in St. Louis, but the Blues’ backup goalie is staying positive.
Following last week’s trade from Buffalo, Miller made his third consecutive start Thursday at Nashville. The Blues’ three-game trip continues to Colorado on Saturday and Minnesota on Sunday, and head coach Ken Hitchcock will give Elliott one of those two starts. But make no mistake, the team will be leaning heavily on Miller moving forward.
“You just ride him and let him go,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a workhorse and no need to slow him down now.”
Miller, 33, played a career-high 76 games in 2007-08. He has suited up in 59-plus games in each of the NHL’s last six full seasons, 40 of 48 during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and 42 this year.
After Thursday, the Blues will have 20 games in the final 37 days of the regular season.
“We’ve got a great goalie in ‘Millsie’ coming in and I think St. Louis is excited about it,” said Elliott, who is 15-5-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .917 save-percentage. “I have thought a lot about (playing time). Obviously when they make a move like that, they’re going to give him the opportunity. It’s a tough stretch those last 20 games. So I’ll get to play, too, and I want to get there and do the best I can, and showcase what I have and try to get some wins for the team.”
Hitchcock said that he isn’t surprised by Elliott’s response.
“I think he’s a diligent guy that’s very professional in his approach,” Hitchcock said. “I think Brian’s attitude rubs off on the team the right way. So sure Miller is going to play the bulk of the games, but Brian Elliott is going to get some starts here too.”
The Blues ranked in middle of the pack among in the NHL in save percentage at the time of the trade. Elliott believes that he and Halak could have gotten the job done — “If you don’t, you shouldn’t be playing in the league,” he said — but he understands why general manager Doug Armstrong made the deal.
“I think ownership and management and everybody in the city thinks that this is our year and we’ve got to do something about it,” Elliott said. “It’s Army’s call and I’m sure other people in the organization as well. You have to roll with the punches. It’s up to them and a lot of teams obviously did that at the deadline, changing players.”
Elliott admitted that he’s thought about his future in St. Louis. His contract expires after the season, and if the Blues re-sign Miller and bring in prospect Jake Allen, there may be no room for him.
“Obviously that’s in the back of your mind,” Elliott said. “You’re wasting energy if you’re thinking about it, but it’s not an easy thing. It doesn’t come naturally not to think about the future. You have to work at it and that’s what I’ve always tried to do.
“You learn a lot sometimes from going to the hospital visits, and see the kids and how happy they can be in a terrible situation. You have to sometimes take a step back and be like, ‘What am I worried about when these kids are battling something like cancer?’ It really puts things into perspective. So you have to live for today because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
The club’s healthy scratches Thursday were forward Chris Porter and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. ... The Blues entered Thursday’s game with a record of 15-0-1 against Central Division foes.