Emery's still the man

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

If there lingered even a shadow of a doubt over whether Martin Gerber or Ray Emery is the Senators No. 1 goalie, it must surely be considered erased now.

Fresh off his 29 save, 4-1 road win over the defending champion Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday, Gerber will be back on the end of the bench when the Sens host Jacques Martin's Florida Panthers tonight (7:30, A-Channel).

This, despite three compelling reasons coach Bryan Murray might have opted to go back to John Muckler's off-season free agent coup 48 hours after his first win since Nov. 10:

a) The Panthers have not scored since Gary Roberts' third-period goal in last Friday's 6-4 loss to the Senators -- a drought that has included a couple of 1-0 defeats and a span that is equivalent to two hours, 21 minutes and 21 seconds of playing time.

b) Gerber is 6-1-0-1, including two shutouts and a 2.23 goals against average, in eight career games against Florida.

c) Emery, who's 2-1-0-0 with a 4.31 GAA lifetime against the Panthers, is still bothered by a injury to his catching hand.

Yesterday, when asked whether his decision had anything to do with the fact Gerber has lost all five of his games (allowing 19 goals on 155 shots) at Scotiabank Place this season, Murray at first tried to bluff reporters.

"I didn't really even think of that," he said, before pausing and losing his attempt at keeping a straight face. "Okay, I thought of it, sure.

"I'm playing Ray Emery."

To most, the choice is obvious. Since taking over the reins with the team (and Gerber) floundering, Emery has won five of seven times and done most of the steering while the Senators have turned their fortunes around. Before two games in the Sunshine State last weekend, he only allowed as many as three goals three times in 11 starts. His 8-4-0-1 record includes a 2.36 GAA and .923 save percentage, while Gerber remains an inadequate 4-8-1-1 with a 3.26 GAA and .896 save percentage.

Still, the deep-thinking members of the media watching yesterday's practice almost unanimously believed Murray would start Gerber against Florida, providing him with a chance to build on his recent success and return to the role for which he was signed.

Murray, however, is obviously less concerned about individual trends than he is about those of his team, which is now 12-12-1 and 11th in the conference standings after winning seven of its last 11 outings.

While the Senators still trail the Northeast division-leading Buffalo Sabres by 15 points, they are only two behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, who currently occupy the East' eighth and final playoff spot.

"Martin had a good game (Tuesday) and the team played well in front of him," said Murray. "I want Ray to have a chance to feel better about his arm.

"(From now on), I'm going to base it on performance moreso than early on," he added in a telltale statement. "Ray had been playing very well for us ... the loss in Tampa (3-1) Sunday was not his doing. I just have to make the decision based on winning hockey games. We're in a position where we have to win, and I'm going to play the players who help us do that on a consistent basis."

While he had to be disappointed, Gerber handled news that he was again being bumped to backup with professionalism.

"It's always great when you win, for sure," he said of Tuesday's game. "But Ray has played great over the last stretch and he deserves some starts. He's going to be good in there ... it's just about us winning right now."

As for any anxiousness he may feel about not yet having won a home game as a Senators, Gerber said: "It doesn't matter, you just want get wins. It's about winning ... you've just got to be patient."


Videos

Photos