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Classic a Bonus for Emery in NHL Return

by Mike G. Morreale / Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ray Emery is grateful to be getting a second chance to play in the best hockey league in the world.

As a bonus, he'll also be given a chance to compete in the greatest event the NHL has to offer during the regular season -- the 2010 Bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic -- at Fenway Park against the Boston Bruins on New Year's Day.

"I'm definitely excited to have a chance to be playing in the Winter Classic," Emery told Wednesday following a news conference. "This is the best league in the world and I realized how much I missed it when I was gone (in 2008-09), so I definitely wanted to come back. Getting a chance to play for a te am that's an obvious contender, has a host of star players and only got better in the offseason was a great opportunity and that's even more exciting."

It's been quite a ride for Emery, 26, in recent years, one that included parts of five seasons with the Ottawa Senators and one season with Atlant Mytishchi of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Emery says he used his time in the KHL wisely in creating building blocks to a better future, which included a return to the NHL.

"There was a lot going on in Ottawa to the point where I didn't have much of an opportunity to play, so it was kind of a welcome break (in the KHL) after all the action and negative attention," Emery said. "But after a while, you start to miss it. I did some soul-searching and definitely realized that I wanted to come back and handle things better. I wanted to be close to family and friends again."

Emery, who signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia earlier this month, happens to be the only current Flyers player with professional outdoor experience. That could bode well for him and his teammates come Jan. 1, 2010, at Fenway Park against the Bruins -- if he is penciled in as the starter.

"I played in Red Square in Moscow at the (KHL) All-Star Game, but I know the Winter Classic is something that is obviously even bigger and that's exciting," Emery said. "There's a certain point where you kind of just stop and take it all in. The elements were pretty bad in Russia because it was freezing. It was so cold that the ice actually started breaking apart, but I wasn't too worried about it since it was an All-Star Game -- it was more the experience than anything else. Still, you want to minimize the difficulties."

Flyers coach John Stevens knows the elements could play a part in the Classic, although players from previous Winter Classics have lauded the NHL for their efforts in constructing the ice surface.

"Once you get on the ice your focus is inside the boards, but obviously the elements will be a little different," Stevens told "It's a pretty calm day today (on Wednesday), but there could be wind and the ice conditions alone might play a factor if there are frigid temperatures or warm temperatures -- all those things need to be considered."

Emery recalls watching the previous two Winter Classics, in Buffalo and Chicago, and marvelin g at the pregame festivities.

"I think what I remember most about them was the atmosphere," he said. "The backdrop at each event was great and it's going to be something to experience, for sure."

It won't be the first time Emery has been at the famed ballpark in Boston, either.

"I've been to a ballgame here before, but there are only a couple of teams that have a chance like this," Emery said. "The players kind of tune into this type of event when it's on, and people are always talking about it. I'll try to get my family in here to celebrate New Year's, and hopefully we'll celebrate New Year's with a win. And a game like this is a great opportunity."

Emery had a 71-40-14 record with a 2.71 goals-against average in his five seasons with the Senators. He went 18-12 with a 2.26 GAA in 30 playoff games, and guided the Senators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007. In 36 regular-season games in the KHL last season, he went 22-8 with a 2.12 GAA and a .926 save percentage.
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