BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- All Ray Emery wants to fight for is a job.
The feisty Senators goaltender -- who has earned a reputation for enjoying the odd tussle -- promised yesterday he's going to use his glove to stop the puck this season so he can battle for the No. 2 goaltending job in Ottawa, assuming there is NHL hockey any time soon.
"I'd rather be the best goalie in the league ... not the best goalie fighter in the league," Emery said during a break yesterday at the Senators' training camp at Broome County Arena.
Emery says he learned his lesson after suffering wrist damage in a brawl last year against the Philadelphia Phantoms in mid-December, which affected his play and forced him to have off-season surgery.
"They always told me not to fight because I was going to get hurt and that was something I never really thought or worried about. When it first happened, I didn't really want to tell them I was injured because it happened in a fight and they had warned me to stop fighting," said Emery.
"They thought it was just a bone bruise at first, but I felt it clicking and it wasn't getting any better. That's when they did the tests and realized that it was worse. I could either play the rest of the year or have surgery right then and there. I decided to play, but it was a tough situation for me."
GOALIE OF FUTURE?
Emery's career has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. He is viewed by the organization as a guy who could be the goalie of the future, especially with the decision to deal Patrick Lalime to St. Louis in the off-season and sign veteran Dominik Hasek.
Following a standout rookie season with Binghamton in 2002-03, Emery took a step backward last year. He wasn't stopping the puck with the same consistency, was struggling with his temper and just didn't perform the same way he did in his rookie year.
But Ottawa GM John Muckler is convinced a healthy and focused Emery will help the organization. The plan for him is to start in Binghamton and if there's an NHL season, he'll get a chance to push current Senators backup Martin Prusek in a mini-training camp.
MUCKLER A FAN
"When I look at Ray Emery, I see a guy who is right on course," said Muckler. "He's had one excellent year and he's had one good year that wasn't as good as his year before. You can call it a sophomore jinx if you'd like.
"We see him as a guy who has the ability to be able to take it to the next level. Everybody has to prove that they can play in the NHL. We drafted him because we felt if he developed he would have the opportunity to play in the NHL. I feel that he can compete for the No. 2 job. Now, we have to find out."
Until Emery gets the chance to go to an NHL camp, he's going to have to stop pucks in Binghamton. The signing of Kelowna Rockets goalie Kelly Guard as a free agent means Emery will be pushed for playing time because last year's backup Billy Thompson is also here.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure on me to perform at this level and I don't think that's any different than it's been in other years," said Emery. "You want to play as much as you can and you want to be in there.
"I've got to look at this situation and be 100% focused on getting the job done. I've got to realize that dropping the gloves is not my job. The No. 1 thing I have to do is do everything I can to make it to the NHL. I'm not going to stand here and say I'm not going to fight. I'm going to think differently.
'IDIOTS' ASK FOR FIGHTS
"I get guys asking me to fight all the time," said Emery. "I get idiots who skate up to me in the first period of a game and ask me if I want to go. I'm not even listening to them. If the game is 1-1, there's no sense in that.
"I'm not just saying this because I mean what I say: My No. 1 goal is to get to the NHL. To do that, I have to stop the puck. That has to be my focus. I'm not really going into this year thinking about anything else."