Everybody loves Raymond

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- To some of us who follow the Senators daily, Ray Emery's demeanour has changed.

He doesn't seem to be the easy-going, quick-to-smile guy who broke into the NHL as Dominik Hasek's backup last season. He's had a moment of surliness (okay, so maybe the out-of-line FOX Sports reporter deserved more than a little attitude from Emery during an exchange between the two following Tuesday's morning skate in Detroit) and at times has either been somewhat curt with answers or appeared disinterested in talking to the media at all.

The days of head shaving and dye jobs are over (probably more like on hold) as Emery now goes with a conservative, naturally coloured (yawn) haircut. And if he's still slamming back the occasional bug, well, he's not telling us.

It's like he's gone from being a Ray-zer to a Raymond.

Either he's A) grown up a lot in the last year or B) taking a business-like approach to his job, out on a mission to show the Senators he deserved to be considered their No. 1 goalie after last season.

Anything to the B) theory, Ray?

"I guess," Emery said after yesterday's practice at the Gaylord Entertainment Center here. "Although I don't know if it's a mission ... maybe kind of a long-term mission. I just want to gradually get better and play as much as I can. I don't think it's a situation where I said I wanted to be the No. 1 goalie by the end of the year. I just want to play as best I can."

Emery's best was outstanding Tuesday in Detroit. He set a franchise record for most saves in a regulation-time game with 43, leading the Senators to a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings despite Ottawa only directing 22 shots at Hasek.

Among leaders

Ten games from the half way point of the season, Emery is among the NHL's top 10 in goals-against average (2.34) and top six in save percentage (.925) while constructing a 11-6-0-1 record. He's not only picked up from where he left off at the end of the 2005-06 regular season, he's better.

"I definitely feel there's been a change in my game," said the 24-year-old, who credits working with goalie coach Eli Wilson in Calgary during the summer. "I've simplified things a bit. I didn't really feel it when the year first started ... but things are more simple in my game right now."

He had to be disappointed when management elected to open the bank for free-agent Martin Gerber rather than show faith in him as the team's No. 1 goalie, but Emery's not admitting to that.

"This is an elite team," he said. "And anytime you have an elite team, it's good to have two goalies who can play. I think they realize I can play. Why have one when you can have two?"

Right now, the way Gerber is struggling, the Senators only have one.

He is a new guy with a familiar face, and everybody loves Raymond.

SCHOOBIE-DOOBIE-DO: Swingman Christoph Schubert is making the most of an opportunity. On a battered-and-blue line that has had more than its share of injuries, Schubert is settling in with regular minutes and becoming a productive presence on the power play. In the last 10 games, the hard-shooting Schubert has eight points and halfway into this four-game road trip, his blasts have either gone in or been deflected in for three of Ottawa's five goals. He says he's learned that it's not so much about shooting hard (his slapper was clocked at 102.5 mph, second to only Zdeno Chara's, at last year's skills contest) as it is the route on which the puck is sent. "There are a lot of blocked shots in the NHL these days ... Volchie (teammate Anton Volchenkov) has, like, four million already," Schubert said yesterday. "It's not even about having a hard shot anymore. You just have to try and find a way to get the puck through the bodies and on to the net." Schubert is striving to prove he's capable of become a regular among the top-six rotation even when Wade Redden returns from a shoulder injury. "Not many can shoot the puck any harder," said coach Bryan Murray. "If he continues doing (what he's doing). he'll find himself a regular player. (Defensively), he's not been bad. There are nights he has stepped up to become a top four or five player on our team."


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