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Ray Of Hope

Senators are trailing, but they're counting on Emery to revive them in finals

June 02, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

OTTAWA — The Senators' Ray Emery stands out among NHL goaltenders like a Mike Tyson knockout punch.

Literally.

It's not just because he is fearless in net, and out of it -- he once threw five straight right hands at Buffalo Sabres goalie Martin Biron in one center-ice brawl, and won. It's also because through these Stanley Cup playoffs, he has a 1.96 goals-against average, including three shutouts, though he now faces the Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has been even better.

Oh, but then there is Emery's wardrobe off the ice, of which much has been written. He favors suits and shirts and hats and jewelry that are put together seamlessly with one result: turning heads.

"I guess I get a lot of attention for being a little bit different off the ice," said Emery, who will again lead the Senators against the Ducks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals tonight at Scotiabank Place.

The Ducks lead, 2-0, and the Senators understand how tough it is to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the best-of-seven Cup finals -- only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have done it.

As the first black goaltender to start for a team in the finals since Grant Fuhr did it with Edmonton in 1990, much weighs on Emery's shoulders as the offensively challenged Senators look to get back into the series against Giguere and the much-talked-about Ducks checking line.

"I just worry about what I have to do and try to stay solid, make the saves I have to make," said Emery, who stopped 30 shots in a 1-0 loss in Game 2. "I'm not too worried about what the other guy is doing."

Emery said he's glad that Game 3 will not be played in Anaheim but in Ottawa in front of the Senators' red-clad, zanily loyal fans.

The home crowd "gets blood pumping," said Emery, 24, who is in only his second full NHL season. "I think we're comfortable playing in this rink. You take your nap in your own bed. You're just comfortable. So there's that and just the emotion of the fans. So it's definitely a home-ice advantage."

Always ready with a comment, with a laugh, Emery has emerged as a cult hero for the Senators this season after winning the starting job.

Start with Emery's unpredictable sense of style.

On game days, he might dress in a colorful open shirt combined with dark sunglasses (think Lenny Kravitz) or a shiny corporate business suit (think Diddy as a bank executive).

You want outrageous? Emery can deliver that too.

He once dyed his hair platinum blond just to change things up in practice. Another time, he won a $500 bet with a teammate by eating a cockroach caught in the visitors' locker room at Carolina.

"I'm interested in a ton of different things," Emery said, as if that explains it all. Then he pauses and realizes it doesn't.

"I tend to kind of leave the game at the rink just because that's how I deal with things," he added. "When I'm at the rink I enjoy being there. In order to appreciate it more, I kind of try to mix it up a bit in what I'm interested in and what I do away from the rink."

Mix it up. How about all-around tough guy? That's also an Emery calling card. He was, after all, a former boxer who once wore a goalie mask with images of Tyson painted on it. Some might even say the transition to the NHL was easy.

Emery gave the league a taste of his boxing skills when in one game Feb. 22 at Buffalo, he first took on Biron and then could only laugh when he more than held his own against Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters -- even though Peters is 6 feet 4 and 230 and Emery is 6-2 and 203.

Before the Cup finals began, Emery tried to be low-key on media day, but he still stood out, being the only tattooed player to wear a baseball cap backward while sporting a diamond stud earring and matching watch.

Giguere put it best when he said, "We sure are different," and then smiled when asked about his Stanley Cup finals counterpart.

"I personally don't know Emery at all, but I hear all the stories about him," Giguere said. "A lot of goalies are often very quiet. He seems to be an outspoken kind of guy. You appreciate that on your team."

Make no mistake about it. The Ducks know that Emery is not a sideshow act for the Senators, who will be looking for their goaltender to help them bounce back from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

"There are good goalies in this league and then there's another tier of goalies and Ray Emery is in that class and category," said Ducks forward Brad May, who has crashed plenty of netminders in his 15-year NHL career.

"He's a heck of a goalie. And [after two games], it seems to me that he's obviously the emotional leader for them. He's the guy who brings enthusiasm."

That enthusiasm, however, didn't help Emery in Game 1 -- his first Stanley Cup finals. He struggled with some shots, gave up bad rebounds and the Ducks scored two "should-have-been-stopped" goals as they skated off with a 3-2 victory.

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