John Paddock had made it clear the result didn’t matter.
Rather, the Ottawa Senators head coach indicated it was more important that Ray Emery face a heavy duty evening of action with the Binghamton Senators on Friday night.
“I hope he gets about 40 shots,” Paddock said Friday morning as he outlined what matters the most about Emery’s two-game conditioning stint with the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate. “Whether he allows two or five, I don’t care, but I hope he gets lots of work.”
Mission accomplished so far, it would seem.
The Syracuse Crunch peppered Emery with 38 shots Friday night at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y. The Senators’ No. 1 goaltender, who’s on the mend from off-season wrist surgery, turned aside 34 of them in the B-Sens’ 4-1 loss to the Crunch.
“I felt all right,” Emery said afterward. “That’s usually how I feel after the first exhibition game of the year. I’m just trying to catch up. It was good to get back in there.
“My (left) hand felt pretty good, I definitely tested it out a bit. I want to win, but it was a good start for me; disappointing for the team, though.”
Emery said his injured left wrist “isn’t at 100 per cent yet, but I feel like I can play now.”
And playing is what counts the most at the moment. Paddock indicated Friday morning that the biggest hurdle Emery still has to clear is regaining his sharpness in game conditions. He only saw two periods of action during the pre-season, facing a mere nine shots.
That’s why Emery asked to be sent to Binghamton, to shed some of the rust. He’s also scheduled to be between the pipes against the Hershey Bears tonight.
“It’s like a little crash course before I get back up to (Ottawa),” said Emery. “I knew that I wasn’t at the top of my game, and for me to come back, I knew I wanted to be (at the top of his game). I asked if these guys had played a game at the start of the week, and they hadn’t, so when I was told they were playing these two games, I decided to come down for them.”
While he’s been catching pucks in practice for “three or four days now,” Emery knows that’s not the same as doing it under game conditions.
“The hand felt good enough (Friday night),” he said. “But you’ve still got to work, you’ve got to practice and I really haven’t been able to, so that’s why I’m down here.”
Emery believes the two-game stint in Binghamton is just what he needs to make him ready for duty with the big club next week.
“Well, I’m pretty confident I can play,” he said. “I want to be back up (in Ottawa), so I’m scheduled to start back here (tonight), then they (Ottawa) play on Thursday, and I should be ready to play by then.”
Martin Gerber, meanwhile, makes his sixth start of the season for the Senators tonight against the Rangers in New York (7 p.m., no TV, Team 1200). He’s 4-1-0 so far with a 2.19 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.