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Emery's NHL return a big success

by John Kreiser
Ray Emery's return to the NHL has been a resounding success.

The Philadelphia Flyers gambled and signed Emery this summer after the goaltender had spent the 2008-09 season in Russia. That came after the Ottawa Senators bought him out one year after he had led them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren let Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki go, then signed Emery in hopes he would live up to his 2007 form.

So far, Holmgren's gamble has paid off big.

Emery made 28 saves Friday as the Flyers opened their season with a 2-0 win at Carolina. The next night, he outplayed Martin Brodeur, making 24 saves in Philadelphia's 5-2 win at New Jersey, helping the Flyers to consecutive season-opening wins on the road for the first time in franchise history.

If Emery continues to play the way he did on opening weekend, the Flyers -- loaded with talent up front and on the blue line -- will be serious contenders for the Stanley Cup.

Five up -- Five players who are off to a fast start:

Alex Ovechkin --
Here's a scary thought for opponents: Ovechkin had 56 goals last season but didn't get his third until Nov. 10. He has three in Washington's first two games this season and has had a hand in six of the 10 goals scored by the Caps in their two wins.

Sidney Crosby -- Pittsburgh's captain is more than ready to lead the Penguins in defense of their Stanley Cup. Crosby scored in each of the Penguins' first two games and got the clinching goal in the shootout win over the Islanders Saturday.

Ilya Kovalchuk -- For the Atlanta Thrashers to contend for a playoff berth, Kovalchuk has to have a big year. He's off to a fast start, with 2 goals and an assist in the Thrashers' season-opening 6-3 win against Tampa Bay before a sellout crowd at home.

Marian Gaborik -- So far so good for the New York Rangers' big investment in the oft-injured forward. Gaborik has goals in each of New York's first two games and has been the kind of offensive force GM Glen Sather was counting on when he signed him to a long-term deal.

Craig Anderson -- Colorado signed Anderson to fill a giant hole in goal, and through two games he's done everything the Avs could ask. Anderson stopped 73 of 75 shots as Colorado beat San Jose 5-2 and blanked Vancouver 3-0 for its best start since 2001-02.

Five down -- Five players who have struggled early:

Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard -- Detroit's two games in Sweden were a nightmare for the Wings' two goaltenders. Neither Osgood nor Howard gave coach Mike Babcock the kind of performance he was looking for as the Wings lost twice to St. Louis.

Martin Brodeur -- The NHL's winningest regular-season goaltender played his 1,000th NHL game Saturday -- and would like to forget it. Brodeur allowed five goals on 27 shots and was beaten by a couple of very stoppable shots in New Jersey's 5-2 home loss to Philadelphia.

Mike Komisarek -- The big defenseman's first two games as a Maple Leaf didn't exactly go as planned. Not only did the Leafs lose both (one in overtime), but Komisarek was in the penalty box for three power-play goals, including the game-tying tally by Montreal in the season-opener.

Roberto Luongo -- The Vancouver Canucks and their All-Star goaltender are off to a poor start. Vancouver lost its first two games, both on the road, and Luongo was lit up for seven goals -- including three in the first 12 minutes of the season at Calgary.

Corey Perry -- Perry (minus-3) and linemates Bobby Ryan (minus-3) and Ryan Getzlaf (minus-2) make up one of the best offensive trios in the League, but they were a combined minus-8 in Anaheim's season-opening 4-1 loss to San Jose.

Injuries, news and notes -- Brendan Shanahan is home evaluating his plans for the future after parting ways with the New Jersey Devils last week. The future Hall of Famer isn't saying what he'll do -- he may seek to play elsewhere.

Out -- Montreal suffered a major loss opening night when All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov went down with an ankle injury that required surgery. He's expected to miss about four months. Another Montreal defenseman, Ryan O’Byrne, reportedly will miss several weeks with a knee injury sustained Saturday. … Carolina lost top-six forward Erik Cole for at least a month with a broken left leg sustained in Saturday night's loss at Boston. … Dallas forward Mike Modano injured his ribs Saturday against Nashville and didn't practice Sunday. … Nashville forwards Jordin Tootoo and Joel Ward missed Saturday's game at Dallas with groin problems. … Islanders forward Jeremy Reich broke his left wrist last Tuesday and is out indefinitely. … Detroit defenseman Brett Lebda injured his wrist in Saturday's game and didn't return.

Returning -- The Rangers hope to have forward Sean Avery (knee) back this week after he missed most of the preseason and the first two games of the regular season. … Dallas hopes to get forward Jere Lehtinen back Tuesday. He missed the entire preseason with a groin injury but has been practicing. … Islanders center Doug Weight didn't play in the season opener due to a lingering groin injury, but he's been practicing and should be back this week. … Columbus expects to have newly acquired defenseman Anton Stralman in the lineup this week -- it took him a while to get his working papers. 

Still out -- Anaheim center Petteri Nokelainen missed Saturday's game against the Sharks with a groin problem and is doubtful for the Ducks four-game trip this week. … Columbus placed Mike Commodore on injured reserve, retroactive to Sept. 19, with a groin injury. … Defenseman Tom Preissing is still out of Colorado's lineup after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 22. He may not be back until early next month. Forward David Jones will miss at least another week or so with a chest injury sustained during the preseason. … Islanders forward Frans Nielsen (knee) and goaltender Rick DiPietro (knee surgery) opened the season on the injured list. Nielsen could be back by the end of the month; there's no word on a possible return date for DiPietro. … Minnesota placed forward Derek Boogaard on the injured list with a concussion. … New Jersey forward Patrik Elias is expected to be sidelined another 3-4 weeks following groin surgery. … Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen (knee) could return later this week. He had arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 10.

The week ahead -- After Saturday's 15-game schedule, it's a comparatively light week.

Games to watch:
New York Rangers at New Jersey (Oct. 5; 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, RDS, TSN2) -- The Devils will try to atone for a dreadful performance in their season opener, while the Rangers come off a solid effort in a 5-2 home-opening win against Ottawa.

Washington at Philadelphia (Oct. 6; 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) --
The Flyers come home after wins at Carolina and New Jersey, but the schedule-maker did them no favors in their first game of the season at the Wachovia Center -- the Capitals also are 2-0-0 with a League-high 10 goals.

Chicago at Detroit (Oct. 8; 7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) -- In a battle of two teams that opened in Europe, the Red Wings play their home opener after a pair of losses in Stockholm against the Hawks, who split two games against Florida in Helsinki.

Calgary at Edmonton (Oct. 8) -- The Flames are back at Rexall Place after beating the Oilers five days earlier on David Moss' last-minute goal following a misplay by Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

Columbus at Phoenix (Oct. 10) -- The Coyotes are holding a "Welcome Back Whiteout" as they play at home for the first time this season after a tumultuous summer that saw the franchise nearly sold in bankruptcy court.

Tough week ahead:
Anaheim Ducks -- The Ducks played their opener at home for only the fourth time in franchise history. Now they hit the road -- Anaheim has four games this week, visiting Minnesota, Boston, Philadelphia and the Rangers in a six-night span.

Columbus Blue Jackets --
Just call them North America's guests. The Jackets head west for three games, and in all of them, they're the party of the second part for the other team's home opener.

Dallas Stars --
Dallas heads to Western Canada for games at Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver -- not the most enjoyable way to spend the first full week of the season. They'll cross paths with the Montreal Canadiens, who face the same three teams.

Easy week ahead:

Boston Bruins -- The early start to the season has given the Bruins a scheduling boost -- they're in the midst of a five-game homestand that continues this week with games against Anaheim and the Islanders.

Nashville Predators -- The Preds will have a few days to savor Saturday's season-opening win in Dallas before Colorado comes to the Sommet Center for their home opener Thursday. They have another day off before Buffalo comes to town Saturday.

St. Louis Blues -- With two wins against Detroit in Stockholm in their pocket, the Blues figure to have the Scottrade Center rocking when they host Atlanta and Los Angeles in their only two games this week.
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