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Elliott eager to get Blues' season underway

Brian Elliott

St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) makes a stick save after replacing teammate Jaroslav Halak in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

Brian Elliott, who peruses Twitter as @kidells1, realizes that Blues fans are a restless group these days. In their minds, the team’s goaltender noted, the start of the regular season Oct. 9 can’t arrive soon enough.

“You see the tweets with everybody saying, ‘Is it October yet?’” Elliott said. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ Other times, I’m like, ‘Well, we’ve still got another month until training camp. I’ve still got some fish to catch and some sun to enjoy.”

But this is a different type of offseason for Elliott, and it was apparent Monday that soon he will be ready to put down his fishing net and get in front of the Blues’ net. After signing a three-year, $7.5 million contract extension, the 29-year-old will finally receive his chance to be the team’s No. 1 goalie when training camp begins in mid-September.

“This is Brian Elliott’s job,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He’s earned it as the incumbent. Our belief is that both guys (the other is Jake Allen) are going to be able to play and help us. But this is Brian’s job, he’s earned the right, he’s improved every year, he’s waited patiently ... it’s his turn.”

At the end of the sobering 2013-14 season, Elliott told the Blues that he would re-sign here only if such an opportunity existed. It was assumed when he came back, and the team let Ryan Miller leave in free agency, that Elliott would receive that chance. Still today, however, Elliott hasn’t been told first-hand the words that Hitchcock made public recently.

“I really haven’t heard it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, but obviously my parents and friends and family have read stuff on the Internet,” Elliott said. “It’s obviously good to hear those words, that they have confidence in you, but it is all up to you and how you play. There’s always somebody knocking on the door.”

Many athletes will say that they train the same regardless of whether they’re a starter or play a complementary role. Elliott is no different on that topic, adding that “you almost have to train harder when you’re the backup because you’re doing” all the extra work. But he admits that his summer workouts have had more energy.

“You do get a little bit of the feeling that if I do this extra push-up, this extra pull-up, maybe it’ll be an extra save here or there that can help down the road,” Elliott said. “I think every little bit helps and sometimes when you have that extra goal in mind, it helps you to push through the grind.

“I don’t know if that’s mental, but I’m just excited about the opportunity. I’ve been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.”

Elliott has an impressive overall body of work in three seasons in St. Louis — a record of 55-24-7 with a 1.86 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. But most of that production has come in bits and pieces, with the only stretches as the starter coming when Jaroslav Halak was out injured.

In his seven NHL seasons, Elliott’s career high is 55 games, which he did with Ottawa in 2009-10 and in a season split between Ottawa and Colorado in 2010-11.

“I’ve played two seasons of 55 games but I feel stronger and in better shape than in the past,” Elliott said. “Hopefully that equates to being able to play more games. You never know, but guys do it all the time and I don’t think I’m any different than those guys.”

As Elliott said, though, there’s always somebody knocking on the door, and in this case it’s Allen.

Allen, 23, was the American Hockey League’s goalie of the year in 2013-14, and while he’ll soon be pushing for the No. 1 job, Elliott believes that a strong pre-existing relationship between the two will help smooth the desire of each to stake claim to the position.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Elliott said. “I think we have the most similar types of personalities of anyone that I’ve played with. We’ve texted back and forth over the summer a little bit. I think he’s coming to Madison (Wis.) just before training camp to work together.

“It’s good to have that kind of sounding board because we’re both going to need it at times during the year to talk about the goals we let in or the saves we make. Not that I haven’t gotten along with guys in the past, but when you have similar personalities, it makes it a lot easier. He’s a good kid and that’s what is going to help our team.”

Elliott has also spoken recently with new Blues goalie coach Jim Corsi, who will replace Corey Hirsch.

“We’re both really excited to work together,” Elliott said. “He seems like a really positive guy. He’s more of a mental coach, rather than getting into specific techniques, trying to change you. I think at this stage, that’s what you want. I think it’ll be a positive.”

Like the fans, Elliott finally came to the conclusion Monday that he can’t wait for October to get here.

“The season is really long, so you can’t bring it on too early,” he said. “But I’m definitely excited and all the guys I’ve talked to over the summer are excited. Hopefully, together, we can take that next step.”

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Jeremy Rutherford is the lead Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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