Philadelphia goalie Ray Emery faces his first matchup with the team that gave up on him when the Flyers host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET).
Emery's controversial run with Ottawa ended after the 2007-08 season, when the Senators elected to buy out the remaining two years and $6.75 million US on his contract.
Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray severed ties with the talented but temperamental Emery, who led the Sens to the 2007 Stanley Cup final, after a series of head-scratching moments, including late arrivals to practice, clashes with teammates and coach John Paddock, and uneven performance.
Toss in a road-rage incident, the Mike Tyson goalie mask, the time Emery arrived to the rink on a snowmobile, and his penchant for flashy cars and clothes, and you've got an idea of why the Senators didn't think Emery fit into the conservative hockey culture.
Ditto for the rest of the league. After the Senators cut him loose, Emery found himself without a job offer from an NHL team. So he fled to Russia, signing a one-year, $2-million US deal with Atlant Moscow Oblast of the Continental Hockey League.
Flyers' gamble pays off
Emery rediscovered his form in Russia, posting a 22-8 record with a 2.12 goals-against average. That was enough for some North American executives to consider overlooking a rinkside scuffle with an Atlant Moscow trainer that made the rounds on YouTube, and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren gave Emery a one-year, $1.5-million contract.
The gamble has paid off. Emery boasts a sparkling 9-3-1 record, 2.27 GAA and .920 save percentage with the Flyers, and has been one of the NHL's most dependable goalies, starting all but one of Philly's games.
"He's been great for us," said forward Scott Hartnell. "At practices, he's the hardest-working guy, and it shows in the games."
Is Emery relishing the chance to show the Senators what they're missing?
"I definitely had this circled on my calendar," Emery said after practice Wednesday, adding that the home-ice contest "won't be as hectic" as one played in Ottawa, which the Flyers are scheduled to visit on Jan. 3.
Senators coach Cory Clouston downplayed, as hockey coaches are wont to do, Thursday's matchup.
"I think most of our guys like Ray and they're just going to play it like any other game," Clouston said. "I don't think there's any added incentive or motivation."
Clouston's club will try to build on Tuesday's 4-3 shootout win over Edmonton, which came on the heels of three losses in four games.
Pascal Leclaire will make his fifth straight start in goal for Ottawa.