Ducks: Ray Emery takes another step forward

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ducks coach Randy Carlyle isn't one to reveal his starting goalkeeper until after the game-day skate, but he was candid Thursday morning when asked about the availability of Ray Emery for Game 2 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal Friday night against the visiting Nashville Predators.

"He practiced this morning and if he gets through another practice ... I'd say Ray Emery is pretty much close to 100 percent," Carlyle said.

Emery missed the final two regular-season games because of a lower-body injury but was well enough to replace starter Dan Ellis early in the third period Wednesday night against the Predators.

Emery was solid in mop-up duty after Ellis allowed four goals on 24 shots in the 4-1 loss at Honda Center.

"You'll take all the reps you can get when you're trying to come back from something," Emery said. "You don't want to go into the game under those circumstances but it's a game-by-game basis right now for the team and for me."

Heading into the All-Star break, Carlyle never envisioned he'd be deciding between Emery and Ellis in a playoff series. Neither player was even on the team at that point. Emery wasn't even in the NHL.

But starter Jonas Hiller began feeling vertigo symptoms shortly after returning from his first All-Star appearance. The Ducks signed Emery as insurance, then traded for Ellis after Hiller's symptoms continued to linger and his backup, Curtis McIlhinney, couldn't cut it as a full-time goalkeeper.

Ellis started seven consecutive games from Feb. 25 to March 11, posting a 5-1-1 record, but was then pulled after allowing four goals in two periods of a 5-2 loss March 13 against visiting Phoenix.

Three days later, Emery made his first NHL start in more than a year and proceeded to win six straight before losing two in a row earlier this month. Emery then skated off the ice midway through a 6-2 victory last week against San Jose, complaining of a lower-body injury that he said was unrelated to the hip surgery that sidelined him for a year.

Ellis took over for the final two regular-season games, limiting the offensively challenged Kings to one goal in each game, and Anaheim won both to leap from seventh to fourth place and earn home-ice advantage for the first round.

Ellis couldn't continue his streak against the Predators, however, and Anaheim no longer has home-ice advantage.

"Three of the goals, they used either their own guys or one of our guys as screens or deflections," Ellis said. "I've got to find a better way to find those pucks and give myself a better chance to make those saves."

Emery, who made his last playoff appearance as the starting goalkeeper for the Ottawa Senators when they lost to the Ducks in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals, said it's good to be back in the NHL again and especially rewarding to be experiencing the playoffs.

"To come back and play like that was special," he said. "The playoffs are a whole different thing. ... It has been a long time."