Emery isn't giving up fight

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET

Ray Emery has been a fighter all his life. That's why he won't back down from a training camp battle.

The Senators goaltender wasn't hurt, disappointed or surprised by the club's decision to sign free agent Martin Gerber to a three-year, $11.1- million contract on July 1.

Emery was the man in the spotlight during the Senators' playoff run last spring, which ended abruptly with a second-round loss to the Buffalo Sabres. But he was almost a forgotten man as Ottawa opened training camp yesterday at the Bell Sensplex.

Emery, 24, didn't expect to be handed the No. 1 job after Senators GM John Muckler made the right decision and sent veteran Dominik Hasek packing this summer.

While it's true Emery would have liked the chance to come into camp and battle for the No. 1 job, he's smart enough to realize Gerber's $3.7-million salary is enough to assure the former Carolina Hurricane the starting job to open the season. But that being said, Emery still plans to get noticed.

"I knew they'd be bring in somebody else," said Emery following the Senators' first on-ice session of the pre-season yesterday. "I heard a lot last year in the playoffs about our (goaltending) and my lack of experience. That you had to have that experience, and I thought they were going to try to get somebody.

"I was surprised that they were able to get a guy like Gerber. I knew how well he had played against us during the season and I know the kind of experience that he's got. You look forward to working with a guy like that and getting a chance to learn from him."

Let's face it, Emery got his baptism by fire last season. The adductor muscle injury Hasek suffered at the Olympics never allowed him to return and thrust Emery into a No. 1 role he wasn't ready for in the playoffs.

Sure, the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup with rookie Cam Ward between the pipes, but that situation was a lot different. There were no huge expectations in North Carolina heading into the playoffs, but there were plenty heaped on the Senators, who were picked by many to win the Cup.

The reality, had the Senators known Hasek would never return last season, they would have pushed for some veteran goaltending help at the trade deadline. Instead, Muckler remained hopeful the man he'd put his trust in would make it back.

Emery did enjoy every minute of his playoff run, but in the end the lack of experience in net hurt the Senators' Cup chances. The confidence in the goaltending the Senators needed to be successful wasn't strong enough and it turned out to be costly in the end.

"I want to be a No. 1 goaltender, but I'm not opposed to working for that," said Emery. "When you are a goalie, and you help the team win, then it can be tough for the team to keep you out of the net. That's what I have to focus on is making the most of my opportunities when I get the chance.

"Experience is always a good thing. I got the chance to see what it would be like to be a No. 1 guy who gets a chance to play all the big games. Hopefully, I can draw off that experience in the playoffs and down the stretch. But that was an experience where the other guy was hurt, and (now) I have to earn that time and not be given that position by default like I was last year."

Senators coach Bryan Murray isn't sure how much he's going to use Emery this season. There was a plan with Hasek, because the Senators didn't want him playing 70 games because of his age. That was thrown out the window when Hasek never returned from the Olympics.

"I want (Emery) to improve and a be a better goaltender than he was last year," said Murray. "He's a young guy. We expect him to get better and better. He's going to play games. I certainly can't designate a number because I don't know at this point, but he's going to play some hockey.

"Athletically, he should be able to push Gerber. He just has to get his game a little tighter. You know, he tries to do some things in the net. I just want him to get square on a regular basis and I just want him to make the shooter beat him. He will be a better goalie. He just needs some time to improve."


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