Emery 'beyond the line'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

At worst, the Senators expected a fine and a slap on the wrist.

No wonder, then, that the decision by NHL VP Colin Campbell to suspend Ray Emery for three games came as a shock to the Senators and their No. 1 goaltender.

While it's true Emery shouldn't have slashed Montreal winger Maxim Lapierre across the head with his stick midway through the second period of Ottawa's 5-2 win, coach Bryan Murray maintained the goalie was provoked because there was a lot of crease-crashing by the Habs during their home-and-home series.

"It used to be, in the not too distant past, if a player went after your goaltender and it looked like it was a situation where there was a plan involved, that it was looked after on the ice," said Murray. "The guy might get an extra two minutes for doing it, but it was looked after. The players policed themselves more. It's much more difficult for that to happen and it's happening a fair amount.

"You hear complaints around the league on a regular basis. I asked Chris Neil to go stand in front of the net with his heels on the edge of the crease. I don't ask him to bang into the goaltender because you don't want to end up with the other team getting a power play. Now, that it's been addressed by Ray Emery getting suspended, there will be more attention to penalties around the net."

Campbell said he wasn't left with a choice, since Stars goalie Marty Turco was suspended four games for a similar incident with the Oilers' Ryan Smyth last year.

"We felt (Emery) was above and beyond the line," said Campbell on the Team 1200. "(Emery) struck a player in the head with his stick and we just don't allow those sorts of things. This is about protecting players from players. This isn't about management, coaches or fans. This is about what's allowable and what's not."

Whether the Senators consider the decision to suspend Emery fair or not, it's now a moot point. Martin Gerber will be in net for three straight home games -- tomorrow against Florida, Saturday's visit by Atlanta and Edmonton's stop here next Tuesday.

Gerber, who signed a three-year, $11.1-million contract as a free agent, has been relegated backup status because Emery has been one of the top goalies in the league. He would have played against the Panthers in any case, but now has a bigger chance to restore much-needed confidence with wins.

GERBER GETS SHOT

"I'm looking forward to it," said Gerber, who hasn't started three straight games since mid-November. "The next game is the most important. I've felt good the last two months. I've felt my game is all right."

The Senators insist they have confidence in Gerber, who has won five of his last six starts. There have been suggestions if he plays well, the club might be able to get a team interested in making a deal for him before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

"Definitely, Gerber has been working hard and he's won his last couple of games he's played," said Spezza. "It's going to give him a stretch and that's why it's good to have two good goaltenders. We've been riding (Emery) and he's been playing great, but we have confidence that (Gerber) can step up for us."

Murray said the rest might be good for Emery. He will be allowed to practise with the team, while it's expected Kelly Guard will be recalled from Binghamton to back up Gerber.

"In one respect, it's a bit of a break for him mentally to step back, come to practice and know that he can't play in the game," said Murray. "It gives him a chance to be a little bit less intense. It's hard when you're playing, you want to keep playing. You want to keep the good habits and (Emery's) been playing great for us. It's a factor in performance.

Added Murray: "I think (the suspension's) heavy. He's a first-time offender, Usually something like this would be a warning, a fine and a game. I was going to play Gerber (tomorrow), and I was hoping it would be the one game."

Now it's three, and Gerber has to get the job done.

The Senators won't have Emery to fall back on this time.


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