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Emery faces Ottawa for the first time

by John McGourty
PHILADELPHIA -- If anyone was wondering if Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery is nervous about facing his old team, the Ottawa Senators, for the first time Thursday, the truth is, if Emery was any calmer we'd need to defibrillate him.

Emery led the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, but maturation and emotional problems that were overlooked that season intensified the next and the Senators bought out his contract at the end of the 2007-08 campaign. Emery played last season in Russia and signed as a free agent this summer with the Flyers.

Emery is having success in Philadelphia, where he went into Thursday's game with a 9-3-1 mark, a 2.27 goals-against average that is 11th-best in the NHL, and a .922 save percentage that is tied for eighth. The Flyers have won four in a row, all with Emery in net, and rank sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Emery was less interested in talking about Ottawa than the things that have made him successful in Philadelphia, citing a pre-signing visit with Flyers Chairman Ed Snider, General Manager Paul Holmgren and coach John Stevens.

"That was a bit different but it worked out for the best," Emery said. "I'm glad I got a chance to know them and them to know me. It was a good way to start the year off.

"I just want to get the win tonight and then go on to the next game."

Emery said he's still friends with some of the Ottawa players -- he attended center Jason Spezza's wedding this summer -- but he doesn't reflect much on his Ottawa tenure.

"Hockey's one thing and friends are a different thing," Emery said. "I made some pretty good friends but I had a tough year in hockey. I separate the two, but I've definitely worked on the hockey part."

Injuries have sidelined key players like Simon Gagne and Danny Briere, plus rookie forward James van Riemsdyk is questionable with a broken finger, but Emery has been rock-solid, allowing two or fewer goals in each of his last four games.

"We have great players," Emery said. "We've had injuries and some guys got sick but we have so many great players who sometimes have to take a backseat. It gave those guys an opportunity to step up. We've played a lot better and a lot more simple than we did at the beginning of the year."

Emery also cited the work of the Flyers' other big off-season acquisition, defenseman Chris Pronger, who has 14 points.

"Pronger played 32 minutes in the last game and made it look easy," Emery said. "He's definitely the leader, the quarterback of our defense and he's very vocal out there. He makes the other guys around him better. He's tough to play against and it's great having him."

"Emery vs. Ottawa" is a media story, not something that appears to be a pressing issue in either dressing room. Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn said there's no shortage of Flyers players who have been traded in their career -- Coburn one of them, dealt to Philadelphia by Atlanta in February 2007 -- so they all understand the questions that Emery is being asked, but they know this first appearance against his old team is a one-time thing that will be over once the game ends.

"We just want to establish our game tonight," Coburn said. "We've been playing pretty well the last couple of games."

"I think Ray has enough experience in the League and I'm sure there's some feelings there inside," Stevens said. "He spent a lot of time in Ottawa. He made his mark in the National Hockey League, in terms of getting started there and made a lot of friends there. He's close friends with Spezza and some of the others. When the puck drops, I'm sure his focus will be on being a good player for us and doing what he has to do to make the saves and give us a chance to win."

"It hasn't even been spoken about once," said Ottawa coach Cory Clouston. "Our game plan doesn't matter which goalie plays. He's a good goalie, big and strong, and he has a very good defense in front of him. When's he's on his game, he's very tough to beat."

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said he wants to do two things tonight -- beat the Flyers and wish Emery well for the future.

"It's good to see him come back to the NHL," Alfredsson said. "He's getting another chance and making the most of it. There's a lot of pressure on goaltenders in Philadelphia. I think he has the mentality to handle it. He's done well so far."

Contact John McGourty at

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