Sens like mush when facing Gerber

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- He's a guy who hasn't had a winning season in the NHL.

He was drafted 232nd overall in the 2001 entry draft.

He's from Switzerland, for crying out loud.

But Hurricanes goaltender Martin Gerber is one of only two goaltenders to have beaten the Senators this year.

And he's done it twice.

Ottawa will try not to give Gerber the hat trick tonight.

"I'm not too worried about Gerber getting in our head," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "The goalie's been playing great and that's something we want to change by getting more people in front and getting to rebounds quicker. He gives up a lot of rebounds and if we can get in there and pounce on those, we'll get more than the two goals we've been getting against them.

"We don't want them to have our number."

Gerber, 31, has stopped 80-of-83 shots he's faced in the 'Canes' two wins (3-2 here Oct. 24; 2-1 in Ottawa Nov. 15).

The Senators are tops in the Eastern Conference with a 15-3 record and hold two games in hand on the suddenly injury-ravaged Hurricanes, second with a 14-5-1 record after losing their last two games.

"It happens on occasion in this league where an individual player, usually the goaltender, can make all the difference in the world," said Senators coach Bryan Murray, "and that's what I think happened here.

"Goaltending is an amazing stat in itself. Our goaltender played well and their goaltender played really well (in the Hurricanes' win here on Oct. 24). We didn't capitalize on rebounds that were there when he wasn't comfortable in the net and as the game went on, he got very comfortable. In the third period, he shut the door on us."

NEED 'DIRTY GOALS'

The Hurricanes do a great job of collapsing down around the net, forcing the opposition to slog through bodies to get to those rebounds.

"They come back to the house well," said Senators centre Jason Spezza, who has one of the three goals against Gerber. "They block a lot of shots and protect their goalie well."

"They sit back and they've got a good structured team," said Senators centre Mike Fisher. "We've got to bear down and get some pucks to the net. We've got to get some dirty goals where our team is used to getting the pretty ones."

The Senators need to force the Hurricanes in their zone a little more tonight. The 'Canes have three mobile defencemen (Brett Hedican, Oleg Tverdovsky and Frantisek Kaberle) who can hit forwards with the stretch pass if you give them time (a favourite target on that play is winger Erik Cole).

They also like to jump up and join the play. Those two things have kept the Senators on their heels in the two games to date.

"The biggest thing is to get some pressure on their 'D' in their own zone, finish our checks. When you're allowing their 'D' to make the first play and have a little time to hit the stretch guy, then they are going to be attacking you," said Murray. "We have to get on them quicker."


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