OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators sent Ray Emery home early from practice Friday, saying he was sick, but they insist they're not getting sick of the temperamental goaltender's act.
One day after Emery had a tantrum following a pre-game skate at Scotiabank Place, the netminder showed up about five minutes before Friday's scheduled 11 a.m. practice and Senators coach John Paddock promptly ordered him to return home.
The Senators then proceeded to practise with a necktie strung to the crossbar at the end opposite to Martin Gerber.
Afterward, Paddock downplayed Emery's absence, telling reporters that Emery was sick and late.
"He got here a little bit late, he wasn't feeling good," Paddock said. "He wanted to go practise, but I told him not to. It was best he went home for the day."
Paddock said he did expect Emery to be back in practice on Saturday and ready to back up Gerber that night when the Senators play host to the Washington Capitals.
On Thursday morning, before the Senators' 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders, Emery showed up for an optional morning skate and took the ice late when Ottawa had no goaltenders out. As he was leaving the ice, he angrily smashed a row of water bottles at the bench with his stick before tossing it into the stands.
Paddock wasn't around to see that incident but heard about it afterward, and said general manager Bryan Murray addressed it with Emery, who did suit up as the backup against the Islanders.
"I didn't talk to (Emery), I know the gist of their conversation," Paddock said. "It's an issue that Bryan dealt with him on and I've nothing more to say on it."
Murray was en route to the Czech Republic to take in the world junior tournament Friday and was unavailable for comment, but it's been no secret that Emery has been unhappy with the lack of playing time he's getting since returning late from off-season wrist surgery and it's also no secret that Paddock has been critical of Emery's work ethic in trying to earn back the No. 1 job from Gerber.
The coach seemed to be carefully choosing his words Friday when answering questions regarding either of the latest episodes, particularly when asked by a reporter if he felt Emery needed to simply grow up.
"I don't know if it's the place for me to say grow up or not," Paddock said. "I don't know. He's frustrated. It's not an excuse."
The Senators insist Emery's frustration is also not a distraction as they cruise atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 25-8-4 record. So long as the Senators keep winning, it seems to make it easy to brush things off.
"I don't think we're distracted," left-winger Dany Heatley said. "I don't think (Thursday) was a huge deal. We all break sticks. I've broken a few in my day. It's not a big deal. Today he's sick. It's cold and flu season.
"There's a lot of travel lately, it's cold outside, guys are getting sick."
Centre Jason Spezza is a close friend of Emery's and said he's discussed the goaltender's frustrations with him, but says they're nothing out of the ordinary going on.
"There's always stuff that happens among the team. There's always stuff going on," Spezza said. "We don't think it's a distraction. We're all professionals.
"The coach does not have a problem with it and we don't."
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson didn't see Emery's outburst Thursday, but had some pointed remarks regarding it following the game that night.
"To get considered for a start, (the coaching staff) is looking for (Emery) to show that he wants to be in there," Alfredsson told the Ottawa Sun. "You have to work hard in practice to show that you want to play. That's what most players do when they're not playing and the goalies are no different." Alfredsson backed off of any criticism of Emery on Friday, saying, "As long as he shows up and plays hard when it's game time, that's what matters."
One comment Alfredsson did make, however intentional, summed up Emery's status among the club.
"If he was our No. 1 goalie right now and we lived and died by him, then it could be a different story," Alfredsson said.
Emery is just 5-3-3 on the season with a 2.88 goals-against average and a save percentage of .891. Meanwhile, Gerber has gone 19-5-1 with a 2.32 GAA and .926 save percentage.