DETROIT –It’s been quite an odyssey for Cory Emmerton this week.
The Red Wings’ fourth-line center – who was placed on waivers Sunday, cleared and told to report to the minors Monday and practiced with his teammates Tuesday – played with a renewed energy Wednesday.
Emmerton’s stressful rollercoaster of a week continued as he collected an assist, missed on his first career penalty-shot chance and drew two Buffalo penalties in the Wings’ 2-1 season-opening win over the Sabres at Joe Louis Arena.
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little extra fire there, but that’s how you need to play every night,” Emmerton said.
Emmerton helped get the Wings on the scoreboard early in the game, but first, the Wings had to kill a 91-second Sabres’ 5-on-3 advantage after Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson followed one another to the penalty box.
The willingness of the penalty killers to get into the passing and shooting lanes, including Emmerton, helped out goalie Jimmy Howard, who faced seven Buffalo power plays, including a pair of two-man advantages. Howard made 19 saves in Wednesday’s opener.
“I didn't like killing as much as we did, obviously,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock. “They had two long 5-on-3s but I thought we were aggressive and didn't give them much zone time. They were under pressure when they were in our zone so that's a positive thing for us. We had lots of forwards contributing, obviously. Howie was good.”
With the Zetterberg and Ericsson penalties killed, Emmerton set-up the first goal of the season with a masterful play in the offensive zone. The 25-year-old whipped a backhand shot from the right circle, which was re-directed by Mikael Samuelsson passed the right shoulder of Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
“Tonight, I thought our line did a real good job and obviously Sammy made an unbelievable tip there,” Emmerton said. “As a fourth line your job is to be hard on teams, have the puck more than them and make it hard for them and when you score goals that just helps the team. I think we did a real good job tonight.”
Thirty-six seconds after Samuelsson goal, the Wings took a 2-0 lead when Pavel Datsyuk converted a Sabres’ giveaway into a backhand shot from the low slot at 12:41 of the first period.
Emmerton took the Wings’ first penalty shot in nearly three years after he was dragged down from behind by Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek. The Wings’ center cruised in alone on Miller before Vanek was whistled for tripping at 7:41 of the middle period. Emmerton tried to beat Miller between the pads, but the former Vezina Trophy winner made the easy save that kept it a two-goal game at the time.
“We know that he can play on pretty much any line here,” said Ericsson, of Emmerton. “It’s just unfortunate for him that we have so many good forwards right now. He kind of has the short straw, but luckily for us no one picked him up (on waivers) and he’s got the chance to prove himself again.
“I know the organization is really happy with him and how he’s been playing, so it was great to see him have a great game. I’m a big fan of Cory’s and I just want to see him succeed.”
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