Senators' slump stopper

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Ray Emery enjoyed a well-earned day off yesterday.

He better not get used to it.

The young goaltender has been a big reason the Senators have strung together three wins in their last four games, meaning he won't be coming out of the net anytime soon.

Emery didn't practise yesterday at Scotiabank Place, giving his sore wrist a rest. But he'll be back between the pipes tonight vs. the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

"It's fine. It's sore," Emery said about the injury he suffered taking shots following a Nov. 7 practice in Atlanta. "I'm just getting some rest before the next stretch of games."

Emery has been solid since taking over for starter Martin Gerber a week ago in a 4-2 victory in Buffalo. It was a game that went a long way toward helping to get the Senators rolling again.

By making 42 stops in a 5-3 home-ice victory Monday over the Minnesota Wild, Emery tied an Ottawa franchise record for saves by a goalie in a regulation win. The old mark was set by Peter Sidorkiewicz against the New York Islanders on April 10, 1993, in the Senators' only road win of their expansion year campaign.

But the past doesn't mean anything for the Senators. Emery's strong goaltending has given the club a boost of confidence, ignited the offence and is allowing this club to start looking like the team everybody expected to see when the season began.

"We're looser than we were. Whether it's (Emery or not), I say this all the time: Goaltending is such a huge factor," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "But Ray has played well and given them reason to feel good when he's in net. Playing and winning, however you win, gets you to play better."

The players know it as well.

"He's made a big impact," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "He's brought his confidence and the team has kind of caught onto it a little bit.

"We've played better in front of him and he knows that. He's definitely been big for us in the net. He's made some big saves at some big times for us where it would hurt the team to give up a goal. He's made some timely saves. That's for sure."

All this has left Gerber, who was signed to a three-year, $11.1-million contract in the off-season, fighting for his starting job. He has been working with goalie coach Ron Low lately trying to get back to the form that allowed him to win 38 games with Carolina last season.

"It's been no fun for sure. Nobody wants to experience something like that, but things happen," said Gerber. "You've got to push through it and battle through it. The team has been winning. That's the most important thing.

"You get your confidence by playing. I've just got to try to push as hard as possible in practice and just try to replace the ice time a little bit. I've just got to be ready when it's time to go."

When will that time happen?

"I'm not going to have a long-range plan. I was just talking to (GM) John Muckler and I said there's a point here that he gets (to start) a game," said Murray. "I think he's square (in his positioning) now and he looks a little more focused in net.

"I think the fact the team is able to score a few more goals will be a big plus for him. He'll play, but I'm just not sure when."


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