Sens in 'crisis situation'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

BUFFALO -- With the heat getting turned up, there are other places to be than in the home of the NHL's top club.

But that's where the struggling Senators find themselves this morning, amid rumours owner Eugene Melnyk is wanting answers from club president Roy Mlakar why his club has lost seven of eight games and is in 13th place in the Eastern Conference going into tonight's game.

TSN reported one of Melnyk's right-hand men is here to meet with Mlakar, who travelled here with the Senators on the club's charter yesterday, as did GM John Muckler.

With the club closing in on the 20-game mark and its record four games under .500, Senators coach Bryan Murray called it a "crisis situation," yesterday.

Time is growing short for this management group to turn things around.

EMERY LIKELY TO START

Meanwhile, the Senators will likely turn to goaltender Ray Emery to try and give them a lift tonight.

If the goaltender's sore forearm doesn't worsen during the morning skate today, he'll be between the pipes tonight.

"If he's ready, he'll be in there. I'll talk to him after (the morning skate) and make a decision," said Murray, who's been looking to get beleaguered Martin Gerber (1-5 in his last six games, 4.02 GAA, .862 save percentage) out of the net.

The reeling Senators need a shot in the arm.

Emery, who hurt his forearm nine days ago taking a swipe at a puck, made it through practice yesterday after having to leave the ice Monday after taking a shot.

"It's to the point if they want me to play, I'm ready enough," Emery said after practice yesterday.

MAKING BIG BUCKS

Emery entered last night's play leading the league with a .939 save percentage and was third in goals against average at 1.86. He has clearly been the better goaltender since the beginning of training camp, but Gerber was the big free-agent signing, inking a three-year, $11.1 million contract, so you knew he was going to get every chance to try and work his way through his struggles.

Goaltending coach Ron Low arrived in town to lend a hand yesterday.

Low huddled with Gerber for an hour before practice.

Murray said they keyed on a flaw in Gerber's technique.

"I said when he came here he was a very technical type of guy. He's square to the puck in a butterfly style.

On one goal (Monday) night, when the shot started to be taken, he started to turn and he was not a square goaltender," said Murray. "A couple of pucks have gone through him because he's a little off line."

With Emery apparently ready to go -- barring a setback today -- Gerber will be given some breathing room to try and iron out his technical problems.

In the meantime, if Emery plays, he won't exactly be getting back in action in a soft spot in the schedule (if those even exist anymore).

SABRE CONTINUE TO ROLL

The Sabres, despite missing their top goaltender (Ryan Miller), defencemen (Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman) and forward (Maxim Afinogenov), continue to roll along atop the NHL standings with a 15-1-1 record.

They are coming off a 7-4 win over the Stanley Cup champion-Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday night.

It's not going to be an easy situation for Emery, who last played on Halloween night in a 4-2 loss to the Canadiens.

In addition to the impending change in goal, Murray shook up his lines for tonight, as well. The new trios look like this: Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Antoine Vermette; Patrick Eaves-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil; Peter Schaefer-Dean McAmmond-Daniel Alfredsson and Denis Hamel-Chris Kelly-Brian McGrattan.

"We'll probably start out that way," said Murray, noting that Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is not big on line matching given his four very effective lines, but if needed, Murray could flip Alfredsson around.


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