OTTAWA (CP) - Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery had a grin on his face Friday in recounting the previous night's fireworks in Buffalo.
And when the teams meet again Saturday, he and the Senators will have added muscle behind them should the Sabres try to repeat the display. "I don't think the other team should send their tough guys after our skill players," said Emery, who, like the rest of the Senators, was unhappy with the tactics employed by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff in Thursday's game - won 6-5 by Buffalo in shootout.
But Emery, who earned such a reputation for his willingness to drop the gloves in junior and the minors that the Senators have told him to cool it with the fighting, also admitted to enjoying being in the centre of second-period melee that involved all 10 skaters and both goaltenders.
The native of Cayuga, Ont., near Hamilton was ejected in first game back from a three-game suspension for slashing Montreal's Maxim Lapierre after first fighting Sabres goaltender Martin Biron then Buffalo tough guy Andrew Peters.
"I kind of missed that," laughed Emery. "(But) my mom got mad at me - she was at the game - so I can't be doing that for a while."
The Senators also don't want their No. 1 goaltender dropping the gloves, but that's what it came to when Ruff, incensed by Chris Neil's second-period check on Chris Drury that left the Sabres centre out of the lineup indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms, sent his own hit squad out to level the score against Ottawa's skill players.
Afterward, Ruff admitted to telling his players to: "Go out and run 'em."
"It's a gutless move by him, I guess you could say," Spezza said Friday of Ruff's instructions. "I'll just have to make sure I protect
myself tomorrow night, however that has to be."
That job will likely fall to Senators policeman Brian McGrattan, whom Senators coach Bryan Murray will insert into Saturday's lineup.
"What I've seen in this league in the past is you respect the skill players," said Murray, who got into a shouting match with Ruff from the bench. "The only comment I can make on it now is the respect for skill players really isn't there between us."
Asked if the inclusion of McGrattan, who's been a healthy scratch for the past nine games, was intended to send a message to the Sabres, Murray said: "It depends on how they take it."
Drury suffered a suspected concussion and 20-stitch gash on his forehead when he crashed to the ice after being blindsided by Neil at 5:07 of the second period. Drury had already released the puck in the Senators zone and didn't see Neil coming. No penalty was called
on the play. Buffalo's Drew Stafford immediately jumped Neil and the two received fighting majors.
Neil defended his hit Friday.
"It's a physical game and it was a clean hit," Neil said. "You don't like to see a guy get hurt, but that's half the battle."
Neil insisted he caught Drury with a clean shoulder check. Ruff complained to the referees that Neil used his elbow.
"That's what the ref asked me. He said, 'Did you get your elbow up?' I said, 'No. If anything it may have been a step late.' But after watching the replay, it wasn't even late.
"I don't lead the NHL in hits for nothing."
Murray said if history's any indication, the Sabres can also expect to face suspensions and Spezza said Buffalo's coach can't be surprised if he's on the receiving end. Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of league operations, said the league would make a decision on the play by Saturday.
"A coach can't send guys out like that without repercussions (from the league)," Spezza said.
Murray also insisted the hit was clean and said he didn't have a problem with Stafford's response, but was angered by Ruff's decision to send out Peters, Patrick Kaleta and Adam Mair to take a faceoff against Ottawa's Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Comrie.
As soon as the puck was dropped, Mair went after Spezza and things escalated into a full-scale brawl.
Though McGrattan will provide protection, one guy he isn't worried about is Emery. The Senators didn't come to the defence of Emery when Peters raced over to grab him because they knew their goaltender could hold his own.
"I consider Razor one of the top-10 heavyweights in the league," McGrattan said. "As a fighter, he can hold his own."