Emery back in net against Leafs
Next, he'll get the chance to give his Ottawa Senators a big assist against their provincial rivals.
Five days after drawing the ire of the coaching staff and management by arriving late for a scheduled practice on Long Island, Emery moves into a much more appealing spotlight Saturday night. He’ll start in goal for the Senators against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
It’s also the showcase game on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada (7 p.m., Team 1200).
“Toronto or Montreal… it’s always a big game on a Saturday night,” Emery said after a Friday morning practice at Scotiabank Place. “I’m definitely excited about it.”
No doubt the good folks at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario are at least equally excited about Emery's goodwill gesture on Friday. He plans to donate the amount of money he was fined by the team for his tardiness on Monday — more than $14,000 — to the hospital.
“I got the fine yesterday (Thursday) and I asked (general manager) Bryan (Murray) if I can turn my fine into a donation and the team was cool with that” said Emery. “So I’ve asked to donate the money to CHEO.”
Now the attention shifts to Saturday's game against the Leafs. Some went so far to suggest it’s the perfect stage for Emery, who has never shied away from the big-game spotlight.
Senators head coach John Paddock didn’t disagree.
“Whatever pressure he has created or the team has created or is under going to Toronto, it’s the kind of situation that he blanks out,” he said. “To him, it’s like going to play an exhibition game because that seems to be how he gets that carefree attitude… in this situation, that’s a good kind of approach to have.”
“The pressure cooker thing doesn’t bother him,” he added. “I don’t mind that for him. I’m just hoping that, after a couple more days of practice, that he understands where we’re all at here and he’s getting closer to playing as well as he can in the net.”
Emery’s start is in keeping with the “win-and-you-stay-in” goaltending system Paddock is currently employing. But the goaltender isn’t using that as motivation Saturday night.
“I just want to beat Toronto first. I’ll worry about staying in net later,” said Emery, who admitted big-game pressure “affects me in a positive way.”
His teammates are confident Emery will supply them with the goaltending they need to rebound from Thursday night’s lacklustre 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.
“I think he’s going to want to play well, for sure, especially in light of what’s happened (this week) and put that behind him,” said centre Mike Fisher. “He’s getting a good opportunity (Saturday) night. We obviously need him to play really well and we need to play better than we did last night.”
Added defenceman Wade Redden: “I think he approaches every game the same way and he battles pretty hard when he gets in the games, and that’s what we’re going to need from him tomorrow.”
While goaltending was front and centre in much of the media talk again Friday, the bigger issue might be offensive production – especially with captain Daniel Alfredsson (hip flexor) out of the lineup Saturday along with Dany Heatley (separated shoulder). Alfredsson has missed three games in the last two weeks because of injury, and the Senators produced a combined two goals in those contests.
“If you take the top two players off any team in the league, your chances are definitely diminished,” said centre Jason Spezza. “We’re still searching for combos that work… We’re missing a lot of bodies and we’ll do some juggling around to find (the right) combos.”
Turnovers also played a major part in handing the Bruins an early 3-0 lead Thursday night, one the Senators didn’t come close to overcoming. Fisher said it’s a matter of simply finding a way to get it done without their two top guns in the lineup.
“We’re making mistakes and it’s costing us right now,” he said. “We just have to be smarter and get down to outworking teams and playing hard and being physical. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a pretty good chance.”