'Nothing you can change'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Martin Gerber is taking shots from all directions these days.

But with Ray Emery on the shelf for the weekend with a forearm sprain, the embattled Senators' No. 1 goalie will be back in net tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While Gerber felt "awful" about his performance Wednesdasy -- he gave up two softies a 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers -- the Senators have to go to him again as they try to break a five-game losing streak. It's the franchise's longest skid since February 1996.

But coach Bryan Murray refused to lay all the blame for their current slide at Gerber's feet.

"That's the easy thing to do. Certainly, I talked to Martin this morning and he feels awful about it," said Murray yesterday. "He's always felt that was the strength of his game. When games were on the line, he hasn't been able to make that big stop. (Wednesday) night, he felt he'd like to have the last two goals back. The fact is you don't replay them. There's a little bit of finger pointing there, but there's more than that (going wrong), I guess."

Hindsight is 20/20, but Gerber told Murray he probably should have left the game after getting stunned with a shot off the neck from Atlanta's Scott Mellanby early in the third. Moments later, Ilya Kovalchuk tied it up 4-4 with a blast from the top of the circle, setting the table for Slava Kozlov's winner.

"Afterwards, you are always smarter," said Gerber, who told Murray he felt dizzy after the shot. "I felt I wanted to be out there and get that game done.

"That's past. Nothing you can change."

Like everybody else, Gerber is struggling with his confidence and after signing a three-year, $11.1 million US contract in the off-season, he's getting a lot more attention in Ottawa than he'd ever received in his former homes in Carolina and Anaheim. But he insists the pressure isn't bothering him.

"If things aren't going well, it doesn't matter what's around, whether you are in Anaheim, Carolina or Ottawa," said Gerber. "It matters what happens on the ice and not what happens outside.

"I have to put my effort in there."

The Senators need a victory just to pick up their spirits. Sure, they're saying all the right things, but there won't be any satisfaction if they lose both of the remaining games on this road trip, which ends tomorrow in Boston.

Murray tried to keep the mood upbeat yesterday, scheduling an optional workout -- which featured tough guy Brian McGrattan on the top line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza -- to give the players a break.

'HEADS DOWN'

"There's a few players that are disappointed in themselves and in their play. They've got their heads down," said Murray. "One guy said to me, 'Maybe in some circumstance, we'd be thrown around and garbage cans kicked and lots of things going on.' I don't think that's the way I want to operate or should operate.

"I think when you have fragile (minds), you've got to be careful. That's all I'm trying to be. I'm trying to be positive with the guys and give them a chance to play ... In spite of everything that is going on, I believe we're going to rebound and we're going to win a couple of games on this road trip. And we'll go home and things will be better."

Right now, moral victories have to be huge for this club, which is why Murray told reporters he was "proud" of their efforts in the loss to Atlanta. That was a somewhat startling reaction for a team which was picked to be a Stanley Cup contender before the start of the season.

"It's an organization that, without a doubt, has been very successful. This is a down time for it," said Murray. "There's no doubt about that and we're going to try to do something about it. Sometimes before you break the bubble, you have to have some moral victories.

"You have to have a feeling that you achieved something in a particular game and I felt that was the case."


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