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Can Ray Emery be the backup goalie the Blackhawks need?

Sep 11, 2011, 9:00 AM EST

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The Chicago Blackhawks are going into training camp with a lot of big storylines to keep an eye on. From Patrick Kane‘s recovery from wrist surgery to seeing how their host of new, tough players blend in, camp is going to be fun to keep an eye on with the Hawks.

Perhaps the most interesting set up centers around a guy in camp on a tryout. Former Ducks goalie Ray Emery couldn’t land a full-blown contract this summer, but Chicago GM Stan Bowman is bringing him in on a tryout and he’s got a great opportunity to secure the backup job behind incumbent starter Corey Crawford.

Emery is hoping that he has put his hip problems behind him and that he can, again, show that he’s capable of playing at an NHL-caliber level in goal the way he showed glimpses of in Anaheim last year. CSNChicago’s Tracey Myers gets the straight talk from a very hopeful Emery.

Emery has dealt with the doubts about his health. Now he’s ready to show how confident he is in his game.

“Even after (last season) finished I took a month off and felt a lot of improvement in my hip where I had the operation. I slowly but surely realized I wasn’t thinking about my injury. I was just able to concentrate on playing hockey. I wasn’t able to do that last year,” he said. “I’m excited. I feel pretty good.”

Emery won’t have to worry about going up against Marty Turco for the job but rather confident youngster Alexander Salak. Salak was picked up in the Michal Frolik deal last year from Florida and while Salak’s ceiling is high as a prospect, after spending last year in Sweden, he may not be ready for NHL action.

Then again, while playing for Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League, Salak put up some fascinating numbers. In 32 games, Salak put up a 1.97 goals against average with a .926 save percentage as well as 41 penalty minutes. He’s confident, borderline cocky, and isn’t afraid to let opponents know what he thinks of him as he showed while playing for the Rochester Americans against Syracuse two years ago.

Salak boosted his record to 6-0 against the Crunch this year, in-between mocking a goal judge, taunting Crunch players and then rubbing the win in fans’ faces by skating off with the exaggerated fist pumps of a goalie who had just won the Calder Cup.

“Better to be villain than hero here,” Salak said. “Why not (celebrate)? We won the game. They (the fans) were getting all over us. We can celebrate for 10 seconds then.”

If Salak can outplay Emery in camp, every game he gets into in the NHL will be on high alert for phony moral outrage from the pundits. That said, if Emery can show he’s capable of playing well and handling the workload, the Blackhawks will be better off for it. While Crawford looked outstanding last year in goal, sometimes young goalies slump after a big year. Having an experienced and tested guy like Emery would help give Chicago the one-two punch in goal that Stanley Cup challengers can bank on.

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