Brian Elliott looking forward to facing the Penguins

Elliott.jpgLast night we wrote about how the Ottawa Senators are confident in
their ability to handle the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the first round, even
hinting at our thoughts that the Senators actually do have a decent
shot. The main reason why, beside their defense?

Brian Elliott.

Elliott
saved the Senators from the laugh-fest that is Pascal Leclaire, seizing
the starting goaltending spot and carrying the team at a time when it
seemed as if they might never win a game again. Ottawa stumbled out of
the Olympic break and it looked like they might actually fall out of the
playoffs; Elliott was there to help steady the ship.

Now, his
numbers are exactly great (2.57 GAA, 0.909 save %) but more importantly
he won many more games than he lost. At one point, down the stretch, he
won six straight games, including two straight shutouts. Now he’s
carrying the Senators into the playoffs, taking on one of the most
offensively gifted teams in the NHL. Per Bruce Garrioch of the Calgary
Sun, who chronicles Elliott’s journey to this point:

“I don’t see how you can’t be excited about it,” said Elliott. “The
guys say the real season starts now. Having the first practice of the
post-season (on Monday) was a little more serious and I like it when
it’s a little more competition and guys are bearing down on every shot.”

“I’m looking forward to it. All our guys — shot-blockers as well —
it’s a challenge to shut those guys down,” said Elliott. “If you do
(stop them) you give yourself a good chance.”

After being such a stumbling mess just one month ago, the Senators
have suddenly become of the more dangerous teams in the playoffs. They
are confident, and they’ve had success against Crosby and the Penguins
before.

Should I make my prediction now?

Naw, I’ll wait.

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    Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

    Steven Stamkos
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    He’s in.

    As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

    Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

    More:

    Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

    That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

    Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

    It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

    To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

     

    Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

    In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

    And then Stamkos took the warmup.

    As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

    “If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

    No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

    Stay tuned…

    Parise rehabbing back injury without surgery, ‘no question’ he’ll play in World Cup

    NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 17:  Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 17, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Wild 7-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.

    Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.

    Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

    Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.

    WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Penguins, Game 7

    TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning falls to the ice at the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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    Not much more to say than this:

    GAME 7.

    Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, but you can also catch the game online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

    It’s been a ‘roller coaster’ — Pens, Bolts ready for Game 7

    Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

    Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

    Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay