Wings' Emmerton feels roster squeeze
Fourth-line center clears waivers, stays on NHL roster for now
|For the third straight year, center Cory Emmerton will be in the Red Wings' opening night lineup, though he almost missed out. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – Cory Emmerton was kind of numb to the whole situation.
“Probably the most eventful, uneventful 36 hours … ever,” said Emmerton, who cleared waivers Monday afternoon.
On Sunday, the Red Wings put their fourth-line center on waivers, hoping he’d clear so they could send him to the minors for the purpose of clearing salary cap space.
“You know, everyone knows what’s going on here,” said Emmerton, who was back practicing with the Wings on Tuesday. “There’s too many players, no cap space, so something’s got to give.”
That was just the beginning of Monday’s roller-coaster ride for Emmerton. The former second-round draft pick thought he was headed to Grand Rapids before the Wings learned forward Patrick Eaves (MCL, ankle sprain) wouldn’t be ready for a few more weeks.
On Monday, Eaves and center Darren Helm (lower back) were placed on long-term injured reserve. They must sit out no fewer than 10 games and 24 days.
“Maybe it was a little bit surprising just for the fact that we’re already down a centerman, but other than that they’re trying to figure out what to do here,” Emmerton said. “I couldn’t have told you either way whether I expected it or not.”
Emmerton, 25, is now expected to be in Wednesday’s season-opening lineup against Buffalo, centering a line with forwards Drew Miller and Mikael Samuelsson. However, life with the Wings isn’t secure for Emmerton, who has to produce every night to maintain his role on the fourth line.
“He’s a good penalty kill, he skates good and he’s getting better,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s still in the growth point of this career. He’s going to be better this year because he’s a lot stronger than he was last year. And yet he’s another guy that has to grab his piece if you don’t want to play in the minors. You have to grab your piece.”
Emmerton knew his situation coming into last month’s training camp. He dedicated himself to weight-training program so he could become stronger on the puck, particularly in the corners.
“I worked all summer, I worked my whole life to get to the NHL and I worked even harder this summer to be ready for this year,” he said. “Now I have an opportunity to prove that I can be, should be on this team and help the team. It’s totally up to me how I play. It just starts tomorrow.”
The hard part for a player in Emmerton’s situation is knowing he can be sent to the minors without warning, but he’s trying not to think about it.
“I just play hockey, so that’s what I’m here to do and that’s what I’ll do,” Emmerton said. “The rest of it will take care of itself as long as you can do what you can do personally. Stuff has a way of figuring itself out and that’s all you can hope for.”