Speaking to a Canadian TV interviewer who was at the Skate Zone in Voorhees yesterday, Flyers goalie Ray Emery conceded that facing his former team, Ottawa, was a very big deal for him.

Earlier in the week, the once-scorned goalie - he was released by Ottawa after a series of on- and off-ice incidents - had downplayed tonight's matchup against the visiting Senators.

"I definitely had this circled on my calendar," admitted Emery, who played in Russia last season because no NHL teams wanted him. "It's a good way to ease into things, and won't be as hectic as in Ottawa."

Emery and his teammates will play in Ottawa on Jan. 3.

The Flyers, winners of four straight, know how much tonight's game means to Emery; they have his back.

"I think he's going to be fired up, and there's going to be a lot of emotions for him," said winger Scott Hartnell, who has eight points in his last five games. "He wants to get this win really bad, obviously. And we do, too. We just have to work hard in front of him and be able to take care of the rest."

"You want to step up . . . for one of your teammates," Danny Briere said. "We understand what's at stake."

Unlike when he played in Ottawa, Emery has not been late for practices.

"He's been great for us," Hartnell said. "At practices, he's the hardest-working guy, and it shows in the games."

Emery has a 2.27 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

Flyers coach John Stevens said Emery was "misinterpreted" in the past.

"Once you get to know him, he just loves being part of the team and loves playing hockey," Stevens said. "I have the philosophy that you give everyone a clean slate and you see for yourself. I spent a lot of time with Ray, and I've been pleasantly surprised by who he is, how team-oriented he is, and how hard he works."

Emery said he liked playing in Ottawa, which is where he makes his off-season home. "We had a good team and I had a lot of really good friends, but it's great here. It's a different environment, and I'm definitely happy to be here."

As for tonight, Emery said he did not need to pitch a shutout to be satisfied.

"I don't think it's an individual thing. I just want the team to win. I don't care if it's 1-0 or 10-9," he said.

Injury update. Briere (leg) and James van Riemsdyk (broken finger) practiced without any problems and should be ready to play tonight. Defensemen Ryan Parent and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, however, probably won't play.

Parent (groin) is definitely out, and Tollefsen (concussion) is doubtful. Oskars Bartulis figures to make his NHL debut and be paired with Danny Syvret.

With Briere and van Riemsdyk back, David Laliberte will probably return to the AHL Phantoms. Laliberte gave a strong account of himself, collecting two goals and an assist in four games.

About 1,000 tickets remain for tonight.