As fashionable and stylish as he is, Ray Emery really wanted to be wearing an oversized sweater with short pants and suspenders tonight.
As much as he likes to kick back and chill, he would have preferred to be working under intense pressure.
Such will not be the case, however, as the Senators' No. 1 goalie will be watching on TV when his team opens the regular season tonight against the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
Emery, who had wrist surgery in June, was supposed to be ready to go by now. He was to ease his way into training camp, make two or three pre-season appearances, then settle between the pipes for Game 1. Good as new.
But the 25-year-old's wrist is not yet right, and so it is that Martin Gerber will again begin the season as Ottawa's starter.
Exactly when Emery will be available is unclear.
"I want to get better, and it's definitely getting stronger," Emery said yesterday as his teammates were packing for an overnighter to Toronto. "I want to make sure I'm ready to go, and that there is no looking back. I feel a lot better than I did even a couple of days ago. I don't think it'll be too long."
Coach John Paddock can't see Emery returning for at least 7-10 days, and even at that he's taking a stab in the dark.
That would give Gerber the team's first six starts, with Emery a possibility for the Oct. 13 visit to Madison Square Garden.
WORSE THAN THEY LET ON
"(Emery) still hasn't faced any live work, really," said Paddock. "So 4-5 days of strengthening it, to make him feel better, and another 4-5 days of practice before he can start anything."
Emery played most of last season with the wrist injury, which was worse than he or the Senators let on. His ability to perform and perform well through the pain won him even more admiration from teammates whom he backstopped all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
"He didn't take a shot in practice for the last two or three months of the season," said Jason Spezza. "He played games by gritting it out. It was definitely bugging him a lot, a lot, a lot. I think we tried to downplay it, but it was a pretty gritty performance by him, to be able to play through it.
"We know the way he battled through it, he probably did more damage to his wrist. That's why I imagine he's going to get the benefit of the doubt, to take as much time as he needs. He did have surgery. Anybody that's gone through any kind of surgery knows it takes time to heal. So he'll kind of ease his way back in."
SHOULD BE EVEN BETTER
And when he is ready, Spezza figures Emery will be better than last season.
"I think a healthy Ray Emery could be one of the top goalies in the league," said Spezza. "Especially now. He's coming in to his prime. He has his goalie coach (Eli Wilson) around. His stock can only go up, I would imagine."
Emery, who had a 33-16-6 record and 2.47 goals-against average during the 2006-07 regular season, is only thinking about the here and now.
"My focus right is getting at 100%, getting it super strong, getting my game up ," he said. "I feel rushed, but I'm not going to rush myself. I played hurt last year and I don't want to do that this year. I'm worried about getting my game back right now. I know Marty's a good goalie and I know I'm a good goalie. I know I'm even better when I'm healthy.
"There's definitely certain things I'm having trouble with ... shooting, covering pucks or just kind of getting in there. Even holding my ground and not having to worry about guys cutting down the wing and hammering into me ... right now I'd probably give that ice up and get out of the guy's way if it came down to it. I want to be able to be aggressive and not worry about anything in there, because that's when I play my best."
RAY'S OTTAWA DAYS
- Born: Hamilton, Sept. 28, 1982
- Height: 6-foot-2
- Weight: 202 lbs.
- Drafted: 4th round, 99th overall, by Ottawa in 2001
- First NHL win: March 21, 2003 vs. Thrashers
- NHL regular season record: 59-27-0-10, 2.59 GAA; Last season: 33-16-6, 2.47
- Playoff record: 18-12, 2.46 GAA; Last season: 13-7, 2.25