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Wednesday, September 21, 2011
No early leader between Emery and Salak

By Jesse Rogers

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan -- By most accounts there was no winner in Round 1 of the goaltender battle between Chicago Blackhawks netminders Ray Emery and Alexander Salak.

Each played half the game in the exhibition opener. Emery gave up two goals while Salak just one. But Emery faced the stiffer challenge with plenty of pressure late in the first period and early in the second.

“I felt a little off today," Emery said after the 4-2 loss to Edmonton. “I would have liked to do be better, but you have to start somewhere. You take the positives you can and move forward and take the mistakes and correct them in the next few weeks.”

Emery says he should have “closed up” on Ryan Smyth’s tap in goal to open the scoring but it was Salak who suffered the loss, giving up the winning goal to Jordan Eberle late in the third period.

“We played really well in the third period,” he said. “Unfortunately they had one rush and scored. It was a great shot. I tried to stop it.”

Joel Quenneville couldn’t declare a winner on the night either.

“Both our goalies were fine in net,” he said. “Emery was sharp in the first period. I thought he made some key saves.”

So the back-up battle moves on to the next assignment for both goalies, most likely this weekend.

McNeill impresses: Quenneville isn’t one to offer high praise often but he made a point of singling out 2011 first-round pick Mark McNeill.

“I thought he had his best game on the ice, whether it be prospects camp, rookie camp, or big camp," Quenneville said. "I thought he had good game. Had pace to his game and had the puck more.”

McNeill had a beauty assist digging for the puck behind the Oilers net and then kicking the puck to his stick before finding Jamal Mayers streaking toward the slot. Mayers finished and McNeill earned his first point as a pro.

No one knows if he has a real chance to stick with the Hawks -- more than likely he doesn’t -- but for one game he was much more noticeable around the puck then another highly touted prospect, Marcus Kruger. McNeill is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Domination: The trio of Jonathan Toews, Viktor Stalberg and Rostislav Olesz was dominant but managed a fluke goal by Olesz after a turnover by the Oilers.

“Our line played really well throughout the game,” Stalberg said. “I probably had five or 10 shots myself. I should bury one or two of those chances. My game was a little rusty.”

At one point the three had Edmonton pinned in their own zone for several minutes with two Oilers players without sticks. But they managed little in way of shots. Olesz has gotten better each day in camp and is starting to show why he was a first round pick.

“It was great,” he said. “We had so many scoring chances.”

He left a good impression on the coaches as well.

Slappers: Jonathan and David Toews played the opening shift together marking the first time since they were little kids they were on the ice in a competitive situation on the same team and line.

  • Hawks forwards played better than the defense. They were caught scrambling several times, particularly when the pairing of Nick Leddy and John Scott were on the ice. “We had some shifts that were tougher than others,” Quenneville said. “We still haven’t practiced d-zone coverage yet. What we have to do without the puck.”

  • Quenneville says he’s in training camp mode as well. “I probably won’t have my voice tomorrow. That’s probably the rust."