Emery's play well beyond expectations

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

The Senators will have to wait until around 8:30 p.m. to start tonight's game because the Habs picked the 29th to raise Ken Dryden's No. 29.

And when the jersey retirement ceremony honouring one of the all-time great (and talkative) goalies is complete, they'll expect to get another exceptional performance from their own occupant of the blue paint.

That's only because Ray Emery is making a habit of producing them.

"In Phoenix, you don't get the coverage of some of the players here," said Mike Comrie, a former Coyote who is roommates with the Senators goalie on the road. "I don't think I'd say surprised, but he's played beyond my expectations of him."

In fine company

Emery has played beyond the expectations of most --especially Ottawa management. Before yesterday's games, his was one of only five names found among the NHL's top 10 in each of the four goalie categories -- goals against average, save percentage, win-tie points and shutouts.

The others slouches were Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Roberto Luongo and J.S. Giguere.

And remember, Emery only started six of Ottawa's first 17 games.

"It's tough to play consistent when you're not playing consistently," said Jason Spezza, who not only has a gifted touch but also a way with words. "Now that he's playing consistently, he's showing what type of consistent goalie he is."

In winning six of his last seven and 10 of his last 13, Emery has boosted the Senators over the Canadiens into fourth place by a point in what could be a shaping up as a battle for home-ice advantage in an opening round playoff series between the two teams.

Hockey day clubbing

The Habs have a game in hand and quite likely a desire to avenge the 8-3 beating they took in Ottawa on Hockey Day in Canada. The Senators should also probably expect to hear from the boo-birds louder than normal tonight, as the Montreal media whipped the faithful into a frenzy after a promotional video at Scotiabank Place unintentionally showed a lack of respect for Canadiens GM Bob Gainey following the loss of his daughter Laura.

"If we end up playing them seven times in row, if we meet in the playoffs, it's definitely going to intensify the rivalry," said Daniel Alfredsson, who made note of the comments he saw from the Habs after their 4-1 loss to the Leafs Saturday. "They're obviously not happy with the way they're playing and I think we're going to see their best game in a while."

Coach Bryan Murray expects a low-scoring, hardfought battle to make the eight goals Ottawa scored in its biggest offensive outburst against a Montreal team little more than an abhoration.

"If I know (Canadiens coach Guy) Carbonneau at all, he's had meetings (yesterday and today) and he's focusing on good defence," said Murray. "More than likely, it's going to be a 3-2 or 2-1 finish, or something like that."

That's fine with Murray, whose team has given Emery a lot of support lately. In their last 15 games, the Senators have allowed just 29 goals.

"We've addressed it a great many times with the team, about playing on the defensive side of the puck," said Murray. "If you play hard on the defensive part of the game, if you get on the back side of the puck, it's amazing the scoring chances you're going to get. It's not the long breakaway passes ... if people come back and work hard and attack together, the chances of getting a play on the opposition net are there.

"We've done a much better job at that than last year, or earlier this season. I think they know it's the right way to play."


Videos

Photos