Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NHL [Print without images]

Thursday, October 13, 2011
Ray Emery starts for Blackhawks

By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery made his team and season debut Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets in Chicago.

"Corey [Crawford] is ready to go but we just want to get Ray playing," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Thursday morning. "He's been here and we want to get him started. We're happy to get him his first start here at home as well."

Crawford missed two days of practice with a lower-body injury while Emery missed Wednesday's on-ice session because of illness, but he says he's feeling better.

"Just a little funny 24 hours there," Emery said. "I just want to contribute. To play at home would be great as well."

The Blackhawks had recalled Alexander Salak from the minors for precautionary reasons but sent him back Thursday when both Crawford and Emery were able to practice.

Emery won the backup job over Salak out of training camp but had some shaky moments in the preseason, when his goals-against average was well over 4.00, though in limited minutes.

The Blackhawks are playing the Jets for the first time since Feb. 23, 1996, and hosting them for the first time since December 28, 1995. The team was formerly the Atlanta Thrashers before being moved to Winnipeg this past offseason.

"I'm excited for them and people like my family back home," Winnipeg-area native Duncan Keith said. "It's great for fans up there to see NHL games right in their backyard."

Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo also made his debut after sitting out the first two games due to a suspension stemming from last year's playoffs.

"Going to the net, keeping your stick on the ice, always being ready for a pass," Carcillo said. "Those guys are so creative I just have to get them the puck, be hard on the forecheck, go to the net and play my game. It means take the body and agitate still, and chip in offensively on that line."

The game also marked the first time since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup finals that former Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd played at United Center. Ladd is the captain of the Jets, and Byfuglien is an assistant.

Sean O'Donnell became the fourth 40-and-over player currently in the NHL, and the first on the team since Tony Esposito in 1984.

To take a jab at their new teammate, the Blackhawks put something in front of O'Donnell's locker. "There might have been a walker in my locker stall and a nice cake," O'Donnell said. "Hockey guys will never let you get too big. If there is something to tease a guy on, they'll be pretty ruthless."

Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.