ST. LOUIS Blues goalie Brian Elliott didn't even have a guaranteed roster spot when training camp opened in September. Now he's likely to represent the Western Conference at next month's All-Star Game in Ottawa.
Signed to a two-way 600,000 contract - the best offer he had following a disappointing 2011 season Elliott has done more than beat out prospect Ben Bishop for the Blues' backup goalie spot.
He's become one of the best stories in the NHL.
Elliott heads into Tuesday night's start in Detroit with a 13-4 record, the best winning percentage in the league.
"He's been amazing," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. "I think this little stretch we are on here, I think we owe a lot of our wins to him. It seems like he's been our best player in the third period, every time he plays.
"I think he's caught a lot of people off guard. He's turned a lot of heads and we couldn't be happier for him. I think it shows a lot about his character, the type of fighter that he is to really just say, 'This St. Louis Blues team needs me and I'm going to come in and make a difference.'"
The Blues are 15-3-4 since coach Ken Hitchcock took over in early November and enter Tuesday's game at Detroit in fourth place in the tough Western Conference.
And a lot of that credit goes to both Elliott and Jaroslav Halak, who was scheduled to be the starter until his slow start opened the door for Elliott to earn split playing time.
Halak has found his game of late and both goalies have teamed to form one of the best tandems in the league.
"They've been huge," said captain David Backes. "Elliott's statistics are phenomenal and Jaro is pushing him pretty well right now. It's one of those situations where you love to have two guys going because they can always push each other and try to get better.
"They've saved some games for us. They've been our best penalty killers and in hockey that's what you need to win games."
But the 26-year-old Elliott continues to be the story, especially after his rough season a year ago. After posting a disappointing 13-19-8 record and a 3.19 GAA in 43 games with Ottawa last season, the Senators traded him to the Colorado Avalanche midway through the season.
Things didn't get better for Elliott with a change of scenery they got worse. He went 2-8-1 in 12 games with Colorado and had a dismal 3.83 GAA.
So the free agent hit the open market with not much to market, eventually deciding to sign with the Blues for a chance to compete to be Halak's backup.
After beating out Bishop and opening the season as the No. 2 goalie, Elliott took advantage of Halak's slow start and ran with it. He enters Tuesday's game with the best goals against average in the league, allowing just 1.55 goals per game.
His four shutouts are tied for the NHL lead and his .943 save percentage is just .001 behind Boston's Tuukka Rask for the top spot.
"He's been our rock, man," said forward Matt D'Agostini. "He's been our main man. He's been steady, consistent and has given us a solid performance every time he's been out there. We haven't always given him the goal support but he's kept us in a lot of games where maybe we weren't deservingly in there.
"To be in this league you have to have the ability. We all knew he could be a good goalie and maybe just hasn't had the right chance or the right fit yet, but he's playing great for us and a great 1-2 tandem like that, it's big for going down the stretch."
The Blues continue to even out the playing time, giving Halak the start Monday night in a 4-3 win over Dallas.
And as long as both continue to play well, look for both to continue to play.
"Both guys are playing good so we're just going to roll with two guys here until somebody steps down," Hitchcock said. "Not steps up because I don't know if we can get much better play than we are getting from these guys right now.
"I'm sure the goalies would like to see one guy but I'm doing what's best for the team and I don't really care as long as both guys play well. If everybody is playing well, then everybody deserves to play. If other guys step down, then other guys go in but these two goalies have both stepped up and done a great job."
Especially Elliott, who appears almost a lock to make the All-Star team baring a complete collapse in the final few weeks before the Jan. 29 game.
And as luck would have it, this year's All-Star Game is at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa the team that traded Elliott because of his poor play.
"It's a great story," said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. "From coming in and having to earn a spot on our roster to probably playing in the All-Star Game. He's just having a phenomenal start to the season."
Of the All-Star Game being in Ottawa, Armstrong added, "It's where he was last year. It would be a great story. Obviously the league will decide and the fans will decide but when you look at the statistics, if you pull up the goalie stats and the guy is always at the top line of that, he should be somewhere near that game."
When he hit free agency after a rough 2010-2011 season, the All-Star Game was probably the last place Elliott thought he would be. But you surely won't hear the Blues complaining anytime soon.