PITTSBURGH -- The numbers -- four goals allowed in less than 30 minutes of action -- don't look good. But Ray Emery remains upbeat as he fights for the backup goalie job with rookie Alexander Salak.
Emery and Salak split time in Thursday's 4-1 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in exhibition play. Salak was rarely tested, making eight saves in the first half of the game. Emery, on the other hand, saw 14 shots in the third period and allowed four goals.
"I actually felt better tonight than I did the other night [against the Edmonton Oilers]," Emery said. "I've got to try and control rebounds and deflections. I thought it was a tough-luck situation. But you can always find things to improve on."
Emery was beaten by some Penguins regulars and didn't benefit from the youth and inexperience trying to defend him. Jordan Staal (rebound after a deflection), Matt Cooke (deflection), Tyler Kennedy (rebound) and Staal again (partial breakaway) beat Emery.
Emery, who has completely recovered from surgery for a deteriorating hip disease, said he didn't feel tight or anything similar coming in the second half, compared to starting the game.
"It was just kind of funny goals, going off shafts and stuff," Emery said. "I don't know how to play them different besides the last one with eight seconds left (Staal's second goal). But you want to control rebounds when things like that happen. It's something I'd like to work on."
Coach Joel Quenneville said it was unfair to judge Emery, who also gave up two goals to the Oilers in Saskatoon, right now. Salak hasn't been tested as much as Emery this preseason.
"We had two empty-side goals that defensively those are plays we say are covered or we don't give up," Quenneville said of the Pittsburgh game. "Tap-ins on the open side that's got to be the defensemen or forward that's in the area. That's got to be cleared."
The goalie battle?
"I wouldn't base it on one period," Quenneville said.
Emery agreed that having familiarity with defensemen helps. But he's not one to point fingers. He's satisfied with his progress in training camp, but hopes to improve.
"I feel better, " Emery said. "My hands are feeling better and reading plays is getting there. It would be nice to see it translate in the games here. You've get to the tough ones out of way I guess. I'm looking forward to playing again."