The Ducks hope Ray Emery doesn’t have to back up his words with actions. Not yet, at least.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I was ready to contribute,” Emery said Thursday, following his first NHL practice in more than a year. “If I get a chance, I’m going to try to make the most of it, try to do my best.”
Earlier in the morning, general manager Bob Murray said that Emery would ideally get his next game action in a Syracuse Crunch uniform.
Emery made three starts for the Crunch, going 2-1-0 with 2.62 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, after the Ducks signed him to a two-way contract last week. On Wednesday, he was back on an NHL bench as the back-up to Curtis McElhinney against the Kings. Reading into the situation, Emery will probably back up Dan Ellis tomorrow against the Minnesota Wild.
“I think we have to stick to the game plan with him,” Murray said. “He’s here now, he’s getting shots, he’s getting NHL shooters right now. He’s (working) with (goaltending consultant) Pete Peeters. He’s going to be here, obviously, until Jonas (Hiller) comes back. He’s got to play more games. Hopefully at the end of all this, we have three strong goaltenders that are ready to make a run.”
Even if his only action comes in practice, Emery said there’s value in working with Peeters and taking shots from NHL players.
“It’s always great having input and feedback, as far as the goalie coach goes, and having someone to focus on your specific game with,” he said. “A lot of times during practice, it’s about shots, maybe not necessarily goalie-specific drills they’re doing.”
“As far as the NHL shooters, it’s a totally different game than the next lower level, and from there, the next lower level. It tends to get kind of scrambly down there. it’s hard to sort plays out. Here, if a player has a shot he tends to make the most of it — but with a more accurate and more difficult shot. … Maybe a bit more speed is something you need to test yourself with.”
Emery has a new mask on the way to replace the one with a taped-on Ducks “D.” He may have some kinks in his game to iron out too — “you can’t expect anyone to be at the top of their game having competed for only 10 days or so,” he said.
By the sound of things, Emery sounds like a man willing to do what it takes to get back into an NHL game, whenever that day arrives.
“It was kind of an unfamiliar thing not being around the game, not being around the guys,” he said. “You appreciate it that much more having spent that time and having to go through the work to just get back to getting a chance to be around guys, and stopping pucks again.
“I like being around. I don’t want to lose it.”