|Ray Emery prepares his equipment before a game earlier this season. The rookie will celebrate the three-year anniversary of his first NHL win with a start against the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow.|
by Todd Anderson
When the Senators host the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night, note the rare 7 p.m. start for a game on a week day, Ray Emery will be in goal for the 11th straight contest. The rookie goaltender has put together a record of 9-1-1 during the stretch filling in for Dominik Hasek, who strained his adductor muscle at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
On Sunday, the Hamilton native recorded his third shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over New Jersey. That moved him into a tie for the NHL lead among rookie goaltenders in that category. The victory also allowed the Senators to move back atop the Eastern Conference standings, and just one point back of overall NHL leaders the Detroit Red Wings.
"It's an exciting time of year," Emery said after participating in this morning's optional skate. "I'm more comfortable in the net. There was an adjustment period. This is a different level and league for me. The team has played really well since the Olympics. We've had our sights on first place, and it's a great spot to be in."
Senators head coach Bryan Murray said the rookie has gained the confidence of his teammates with his play.
"He's been more confident and just as importantly the players feel real positive now when Ray plays. To have a second goalie be successful is very important. To have a young goalie doing it is huge. He has the possibility of being the guy here for a long time."
Tomorrow night marks the three-year anniversary of Emery's first NHL start that resulted in a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Taking a break
Murray said he feels it is important to give players time off as the playoffs approach. On Monday the team held an optional skate and after a full pre-game skate and game tomorrow, the coach said he expects to give his team a day off on either Wednesday or Thursday.
"To get away for one day really helps them. You walk away and go for a coffee in the morning, or spend time with the wife or kids."
The Senators finish off the regular season playing 15 games in 29 days starting tomorrow evening.