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Net gains for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Ray Emery insists he’s ready to answer the call.

But when the Ottawa Senators goaltender gets to see his first action of this National Hockey League season is still yet to be determined.

“I haven’t thought about it one bit,” Senators head coach John Paddock said Monday morning when asked if Emery will be the starter Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens or Saturday vs. the Florida Panthers. “I won’t think about it until maybe Wednesday night. That’s when I’ll decide.”

Ray Emery admits he was happy to finally see some game action over the weekend, even if was in Binghamton.
Paddock was pleased with what he saw in practice Monday from the man who finished last season as the Senators’ No. 1 goaltender, backstopping them all the way to the Stanley Cup final.

“I thought he worked hard today,” said Paddock. “He looked pretty competitive in the scoring (drill).”

Emery also got his competitive juices flowing on the weekend, when he suited up for a two-game conditioning stint with the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. He faced 86 shots in the two games and turned aside 80 of them.

More importantly, Emery savoured the opportunity for some game action. He only played two periods – and faced nine shots – during the pre-season while recovering from off-season surgery on his left wrist.

“I enjoy playing,” Emery said Monday. “As it went on down (in Binghamton), I stopped having to think about things so much and started enjoying myself and yelling at guys again and doing things that are actually fun instead of just getting pucks hammered at you all day in practice.
“It kind of makes you remember why you like playing the game.”

Didn’t matter, either, that it wasn’t the kind of test that awaits Emery when he returns to NHL competition.

“Hockey’s hockey,” he said. “There’s good players down there. It’s not high-end dressing rooms and buildings and all the spoils that it is up here, but it’s good hockey. It’s still challenging and enjoyable.”

What should also ease Emery’s return is the play of the rest of the team in front of him. The Senators have been in top form in racing out to a 6-1-0 record, tops in the NHL.

“The way we’re playing, we should make life not too hard on him,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “He should feel comfortable when he’s in there.”

Added Emery: “It’s not the sort of situation where you have to stand on your head. You’ve just got to play simple hockey and try not to make mistakes. More often than not, with the team we have, we’re going to win games when we play like that.”

Martin Gerber was a standout again in Saturday night’s 3-1 victory over the Rangers in New York. He’s on a 5-1-0 roll and playing some of his best hockey in a Senators uniform. But Paddock deflected any suggestion that a goaltending controversy might be brewing with Emery ready to return.

“Every day there’s a tough decision in hockey, when you have to tell a guy that he’s sitting out,” said Paddock. “We (coaches) just do what’s best to win hockey games.

“We don’t have a Roberto Luongo here, for sure. We have two really good NHL goaltenders. Both have the abilities to be No. 1. That’s what we have.”

Less than 200 tickets remain for Thursday’s game against the Canadiens at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200). About 750 are left for Saturday’s matchup with Florida (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

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