PITTSBURGH -- Locked in a battle for the Chicago Blackhawks' backup goaltending spot, Ray Emery has little room for error.
The veteran got his second opportunity to impress the Hawks' hierarchy when he played the second half of the Hawks' 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center. Emery yielded all four goals in the third period after rookie Alexander Salak stopped all eight shots he faced before departing in the second.
Emery was the victim of some poor defensive play, including goals by the Penguins' Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy when they were left open on rebounds.
"We had two empty-side goals," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Defensively, those are plays that we say those are cardinal sins in that we don't give up tap-ins on the open side. That's got to be the forward in that area (and it) has to be cleared. I wasn't blaming the goalie."
In two exhibition games, including against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, Emery has allowed six goals while playing half of each game. Salak has let one puck get past him in the Hawks' first two exhibition games.
"I've got to keep improving and I actually felt better (Thursday night) than the other night," said Emery, who is in camp on a tryout basis after playing for the Anaheim Ducks last season. "I have to control the rebounds. That's about it. It was one of those tough-luck situations, but you can always find things to improve on."
Emery said his game is getting better as training camp continues.
"It's always kind of a gradual thing at the start of the year," he said. "My hands are feeling better (and) I'm reading plays. It would be nice to see it translate into a game here but you have to get the tough ones out of the way, I guess. I'm looking forward to playing again."
He likely won't get that chance Friday night when the Hawks host the Washington Capitals as No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford is expected to play the entire game.
As for an assessment on the race between Emery and Salak, Quenneville said it was still early.
"We'll see," Quenneville said. "It's a long camp and eveyyone will get a chance to address it and talk about it. Certainly, I wouldn't base it on one period."
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