Elliott Starts, Ott Ready to Face Sabres
Brian Elliott will start in goal when the Blues host the Buffalo Sabres at Scottrade Center tonight (7 p.m. FSMW, KMOX).
The move may come as a surprise since this is the first opportunity to see Ryan Miller meet his former club, but Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said it’s all part of a plan for the rest of the season.
“(The decision) is mostly based on the weekend games,” Hitchcock said. “We talked to (Ryan) and said ‘listen, do you have to play against Buffalo? Does it matter?’ He said he didn’t care one way or another, so it set our schedule nicely for what we wanted to do until the end of the season.
“We still have some flexibility based on the opponent and wherever we are standings-wise, but we want to make sure both guys get what they need.”
In his last start on March 23, Elliott made 33 saves to help the Blues to a 1-0 win against the Penguins.
“Since I’ve been here, this is the best I’ve seen him play,” Hitchcock said of Elliott after Wednesday’s optional practice at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Outlet Mall. “He’s really focused. He works his tail off. He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever seen in practice, whatever the position is. I think you really want to reward that work ethic.”
Said Elliott, “You go out there every day in practice and those are your games when you’re not playing. You just try to get better every day and stop the puck. There’s not much to it.”
Elliott will face a Sabres team that made plenty of changes at the deadline, including acquiring former Blues forward Chris Stewart, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Buffalo is coming off a 3-2 shootout win Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.
“They’re playing for next season and building blocks and to get something started for that,” Elliot said. “We want to (be) continuing to play the way we want to play and not play down or play to someone else’s level. We want to play to ours.”
Elliott has 9-0-2 career record against the Sabres with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .940 save-percentage.
Miller won’t be starting tonight, but Ott will be lining up against a team he captained less than two months ago.
“There’s a lot of good friends and close friends I’ll have for life over there. But game on is game on,” Ott said. “This is a pretty heavy business game for ourselves. There’s a lot for us to play for and there’s a lot for those guys to play for. They need jobs for next year, they want to prove they belong in the League and when you do so, you’re going to be playing against a pretty competitive team over there.”
Said Miller, “I hope none of the boys try to wake (Ott) up too much. You know how he gets when he gets really awake.”
“We’re hopeful that we get both Jacks and Steener back quickly here,” Hitchcock said. “They’re not going to miss a lot of time, but they’re going to miss some time here. We’re going to use other guys and hopefully they can keep us up to speed.
Jordan Leopold will return to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 8 when he injured his ankle against the Jets. Leopold missed 18 games.
Dmitrij Jaskin will also be back in the lineup tonight.
With a win tonight, the Blues would set a new single-season franchise record with 52 wins (the previous record was 51, set during the 1999-2000 season).
The Blues have points in 13 of their last 16 games overall (12-3-1) and have points in 11 of their last 12 games at Scottrade Center (9-1-2).
Against Buffalo, the Blues have a three-game winning streak, outscoring the Sabres 11-3. Overall, the Blues have won 13 of the last 15 meetings overall.
Alex Pietrangelo will play in his 300th career game tonight.