Returning last season from a serious hip problem, Emery helped the Anaheim Ducks secure a playoff seed, but that didn’t get him a contract with the Ducks or anyone else.
“I don’t expect anything from anybody except myself,” Emery said Saturday after his first practice and scrimmage as a Hawk. “I was fortunate to get an opportunity here so I’ll take it and go from there. I would have liked to see a handful of different scenarios play out, but I can’t control that.”
His first day on the ice did him no damage with the coaches or front office brass. In fact, Joel Quenneville had high praise for Emery after seeing him make several impressive saves during an intra-squad scrimmage.
“I liked him,” Quenneville said. “He looked big in the net. He looked very composed and confident as well. I liked his approach going into this camp. We’ll definitely keep an eye on him, but we like what we’re seeing.”
Big is in for netminders, while smaller guys are on the way out.
“It’s the first day,” Emery said. “I don’t expect miracles for myself. I just want to stay healthy and stop what I’m supposed to stop.”
“Health” was a word Emery used often on Saturday. He knows he overcame a lot just to return to the NHL. Doctors performed a bone graft to help fix his ailing hip and his rehabilitation was as intense as his dramatic return, which included a huge 2-1 win over the Hawks at the United Center late last March.
“I remember that game,” Emery said. “That playoff race was crazy. Five or six teams were a few points
apart. That was a big win for sure.”
Quenneville recalls the game as well, but with less fond memories. Overall, Emery had an impressive 7-2 mark in the heat of a playoff race. So how does he feel about having to prove himself again and battle an untested rookie, Alexander Salak, for the backup job in Chicago?
“That’s any year,” Emery said. “Even if you’re an established guy, if you’re not winning games they’re going to find someone quick that is. I just want to stop the puck when I get a chance to, and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Hawks promised him nothing but offered him a chance at everything he wants: A contract and a roster spot.
“They spoke to me and they said if I came and proved myself there might be a spot to be had,” he explained. “I wouldn’t [have come] if I felt I didn’t have a chance. I don’t have much say in what happens besides giving it my best out there.”
Emery says he feels even better physically than when he played for Anaheim last season. The summer break helped him enormously and he wants to keep out of the trainer’s room.
“I’m encouraged by my body right now,” Emery said. “My main focus is taking care of my body and staying healthy.”
And stopping pucks. If he does that enough in the preseason he’ll go from a tryout to a contract -- and probably a roster spot -- on a team vying for another championship.
“I just want to play hockey again,” Emery said. “It’s been a long road.”