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Ray Emery helped lead the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup finals last June. This season isn't going as well for the goaltender.
On Saturday night, Emery is expected to get his first start since being fined by his team when the Eastern Conference-leading Senators visit the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs in a Northeast Division matchup.
Emery, who had a 2.26 goals-against average in last season's playoffs while playing every minute, is looking to put a difficult week behind him. He was fined "substantially" by the Senators (32-16-4) for showing up four minutes late to practice on Monday, and he didn't play in either a 5-2 win at the New York Islanders the following night or a 4-1 loss to Boston on Thursday, acting as the backup to Martin Gerber.
Emery claims he went to the Nassau Coliseum instead of the Islanders' practice rink, which caused him to be late.
"When the club came back from the break, I just didn't go to the right location," Emery said. "I didn't want to cause a ruckus, and I want to make up for it.
"They said it was a one-time thing, and they know it was accidental, but it's kind of me all the time, so it's (management's) job to do something about it. I didn't want to miss the practice, but I did, and I have to try to get past it.
"I haven't heard any of my teammates say it harmed them or anything like that. All I can do is show up on time and try to get through this as best as I can."
One of his teammates, center Jason Spezza, expects Emery to put the incident behind him.
"I expect there to be a lot of media attention around it," Spezza said. "Ray's a competitive guy and he's going to be looking to prove people wrong. There's been a lot of negative stuff said about him in the last little bit and he's going to want to try to prove people wrong and show people that he's a good goaltender and that he cares, and hopefully he does that."
Emery has been a disappointment this season, posting an 8-7-3 record and 2.95 GAA in 20 games - 16 starts - after going 33-16-6 with a 2.47 GAA and five shutouts in 58 games in 2006-07.
He is 4-1-2 with a 2.51 GAA in seven career starts against the Maple Leafs (20-24-9), but has not faced them in four meetings this season. Gerber has backstopped the Sens to a 3-1-0 record against the provincial rivals, although the loss came in the last matchup, 3-0 at Toronto on Nov. 17.
Although Emery will return, the Senators are expected to be without Daniel Alfredsson again. The NHL's second-leading scorer with 68 points, Alfredsson injured his hip against the Islanders after setting a franchise record with seven points in an 8-4 win at Tampa Bay on Jan. 24.
The Leafs occupy last place in the Northeast, and are looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss after falling 3-2 in overtime at Carolina on Thursday. Mats Sundin forced the extra period by scoring with 11.4 seconds left in regulation, but Vesa Toskala later allowed the game-winning power-play goal to Rod Brind'Amour.
Toskala, who finished with 35 saves against the Hurricanes, has lost his last three starts. He had a 24-save performance against Ottawa on Nov. 17 for his first of two shutouts on the season.
The goaltender could use some help from a struggling power-play unit, which has not converted in 15 opportunities over the last five games. It is ranked last in the East with a 14.2 percent success rate.