When there's only 10 shopping days left until the trade deadline and a limo carrying an unfamiliar face pulls up to Scotiabank Place ... well, you couldn't blame departing reporters for making that quick, coffee-spilling U-turn.
As it so happens, the passenger was Billy Thompson, who was called up from AHL Binghamton yesterday to serve as Ray Emery's backup while Dominik Hasek is injured.
Oh yeah. We knew he was on the way when we left the building.
"Billy has played really well the last month or so ... up until then, he had struggled," Senators goalie coach Ron Low had said earlier, suggesting Thompson's problems may have been connected to a groin injury and his attempt to come back too soon from it. "Now he's playing as well as he has all year.
"Last year, he was absolutely excellent," Low said of the 23-year-old, who was 19-8-2 with a 2.44 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 2004-05 and so far this season is 8-16-2, 3.87 GAA and .890 save percentage. "He's a butterfly goalie, with pretty decent hands and real good feet."
Is he good enough to become a regular NHL employee one day?
"I think so," said Low.
A No. 1?
"I don't know. He'll determine that. But he definitely has NHL ability."
This is Thompson's first post-September stint with the big club in any type of role, and he'll stay here until either Hasek returns or if GM John Muckler trades for another goaltender.
Hasek, who suffered a deeply concerning adductor injury while playing for the Czechs at the Olympics, is working out only off-ice.
BUSY AT PRACTICE
Expecting Thompson would arrive in Ottawa earlier than he did, coach Bryan Murray didn't bother to invite a junior goalie to practice yesterday, leaving Emery to face all the shots himself.
"We want to exhaust Ray totally before he starts to play ... he saw a lot of pucks," Murray joked.
Emery is slated to start back-to-back games this week -- in Pittsburgh tomorrow and at home Thursday against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals -- before the team hits the road for a significant five games-in-nine days road trip.
Thompson and Hasek will both make the journey.
"Hopefully, (Hasek) will get a little skating in the next few days and we'll leave it to him to tell us when he can do more," said Murray. "We want to be careful and make sure he's 100% before he goes back in net."
RAISING ROGER'S ROOF: The Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation is donating $50,000 in the first of a two-year deal with the Senators Foundation toward the completion of Roger's House, the pediatric palliative care home being built at CHEO in memory of former Senators coach Roger Neilson. Senators centre Mike Fisher will serve as the honorary chairman for the upcoming Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival. More than 180 teams are expected and pledges can be made to the cause through www.dragonboat.net. Charitable receipts will be issued immediately.