Emery's star clearly on rise

BRUCE GARRIOCH, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Is Ray Emery having an all-star season?

He'll find out next weekend.

But, as far as Senators coach Bryan Murray is concerned, Emery deserves consideration to participate in the NHL's all-star celebration, set for Jan. 22-23 in Dallas.

New Jersey veteran Martin Brodeur -- the Senators' opponent in today's matinee at Scotiabank Place -- will be the starting goalie for the Eastern Conference in voting done by the fans, but the two backup positions are wide open.

The rosters for the Eastern and Western Conferences will be named during next week's Hockey Day in Canada broadcast on CBC. The starters are voted on by the fans while NHL operations fill out the rest of the rosters.

Emery, who has ousted Martin Gerber as the Senators' No. 1 goalie, is pushing for one of those spots along with Montreal's Cristobal Huet, Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Kari Lehtonen of Atlanta.

''(Emery's) been right there with all of them. Huet is probably right up there, too,'' said Murray. ''Very definitely Ray Emery has been one of the top guys.''

Huet has a good shot at making the squad because of the Habs' performance, while Buffalo and Atlanta lead their respective divisions.

STEPPING UP

Emery has compiled a 16-9-1 record with a 2.48 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Lately, he's really turned up his game by going 4-0-1 in his last five starts with a 1.57 GAA.

Pretty heady numbers for a guy who was expected to be the club's backup after Gerber signed a three-year, $11.1-million US contract on July 1. But, with Gerber forced to the bench, Emery has emerged into the spotlight with a performance that has sparked the all-star talk.

''That's not something I've really thought about,'' said Emery, who will start against the Devils today. ''It's exciting for me to get a chance to play like I have been lately.''

Emery, who earns $925,000, admitted he came into camp ready to push for the No. 1 job after leading the Senators into the playoffs last season following an injury to Dominik Hasek.

He wanted to show he deserved the chance to play and obviously has been successful -- it would take a major collapse for Gerber to earn his starting job back in the season's second half.

''I'm a competitive guy and I want to play as much as I can,'' said Emery, who has been nursing a sore hand since early November.

''Definitely, when you're not getting a chance to play that much, you want to work hard to play a bit more. I think for the most part it's myself wanting to get better. It's a long-term goal and it might have come faster than I expected, but I still have a long way to go.''

GOOD EXPERIENCE

Murray said the experience Emery gained last season when Hasek was hurt down the stretch and in the playoffs helped him take his game to another level.

''Technically he's a little more consistent,'' said Murray. ''He's square all the time now. He's catching the puck all the time. It's just poise.

''Last year, he accepted the role of a second goaltender. He played like a second goaltender plays: One night, he'd be unbelievably good and another night he'd have a couple of faults. He was young and it was really his first year in the league.

''This year, he has been poised and solid and knows he's going to play. That's a big part of it. His quickness has never been questioned. He's a more solid, compact guy.''

NOTE: The Senators acquired C Matt Koalska from the Islanders for D Tomas Malec.Koalska, 26, will report to Binghamton of the AHL. Malec, 24, had one goal and 12 assists in 33 games with Binghamton this season.


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