Ray Emery skates for the first time since last spring, hopes to make NHL comeback

As a promising headcase of a goalie for the Ottawa Senators, Ray Emery was known for being as difficult as he was talented. He was also known for eating a cockroach to win a $500 bet with team captain Daniel Aldfredsson, an anecdote that earns a near-mandatory mention whenever I discuss him.

If Emery can make his way back into the NHL – for the second time in only a few years – it might be most accurate to refer to Emery as a resilient battler in the best of ways.

One season after helping the Senators make a run to the Stanley Cup finals, the team let him go thanks to his peculiar attitude and a rough 2007-08 season. (Emery went 12-13-4 with an ugly 89 save percentage a season after playing the best hockey of his career.)

Despite a considerable pedigree and some upside as a young player, no NHL team decided he was worthy of a contract for the 08-09 season, so he was forced to play overseas. He ended up earning enough clout with Atlant in the KHL to gain a second chance with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, only to go down with a hip injury that not only ruined his 09-10 season but some wondered might end his career.

While Emery still has a long way to go from that scary injury, the erstwhile goalie seems determined to earn another opportunity. Sam Carchidi caught up with Emery and shared some details about how his former team might offer him the chance to work his way back at some point.

Former Flyers goalie Ray “Razor” Emery told ESPN.com he will skate next week for the first time since career-threatening hip surgery last spring. The complex operation involved having a bone grafted from the lower part of his leg and being inserted into his hip.
“Usually when you have this type of thing done, they just want you to walk again,” Emery said.
But Emery, 28, a free agent who started his grueling rehab sessions six weeks ago, said he hasn’t abandoned hope of returning to the NHL someday. Emery said the earliest he thought he would be ready to play would be “maybe January.”
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren has left the door open for Emery.
Holmgren said that Emery is an “NHL longshot” this season, but that the team might let him prove his readiness to return by playing in their minor league system at some point during the 2010-11 season. Emery has had his problems – some based on bad luck, others due to his own swagger/hubris – but it’s difficult to root against him as he tries to make another comeback to the NHL. It might be a while before we hear from him again, but it would be great to see Emery (and his wacky antics) back in the league someday in the near future.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.