Gerber food for thought

Senators' Patrick Eaves (left) and Stefan Ruzicka of the Flyers battle while Martin Gerber looks on...

Senators' Patrick Eaves (left) and Stefan Ruzicka of the Flyers battle while Martin Gerber looks on during NHL exhibition action in London, Ont. on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Sue Reeve)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

It's only an exhibition game, and the first one to boot, for the Ottawa Senators.

But they'll take this kind of performance any time, any place.

Last night it was here in London as the Senators defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in an NHL preseason game in front of 9,100 fans at the John Labatt Centre.

In a game devoid of big names, one name stood out for the Senators -- goaltender Martin Gerber.

After being signed for big bucks as a free agent in 2006 specifically to be the Senators' No. 1 netminder, he had a horrible start, eventually giving way to Ray Emery.

Last night, Gerber was the player the Senators thought they'd signed. He made 52 saves, 23 in the second period, in earning the shutout.

"He was very good," said coach John Paddock. "The pucks were hitting him and when you're in position, the pucks hit you.

Paddock said Gerber played better than he was given credit for last year.

"A tough season? It gets lumped into that because Ray took over and did a good job," Paddock said. "Gerbs had a tough start but he won 12 of his last 15 games. He's a real good goaltender and he played real well for us from the first of December last year."

Gerber was pleased by his play but pointed out it was only exhibition.

"You go day-by-day and work hard," he said. "You don't decide anything in the preseason. It's always good to get a win though. It helps with your confidence."

He wants to put last year behind him. "I took out whatever I could from last season. I thought I had a good second half for the ice time I got. But I don't really want to think about it any more. I just want to move forward."

The Senators were without Wade Redden, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. The Flyers didn't bring Jason Smith, Mike Knuble, Kimmo Timonen, Simon Gagne or their big offseason, free-agent signing Daniel Briere.

Nonetheless the JLC was sold out and the fans were treated to a lively game.

Ilja Zubov, Andrej Meszaros and Nick Foligno gave Ottawa a 3-0 first-period lead.

The rest of the night belonged to Gerber. He made several big saves, including two on Londoner Jeff Carter.

"I love coming back here to play. It's not often you get to play an NHL game in front of your hometown fans," Carter said. "But it would be nice to win one. I don't think I've ever won in here."

Mike Eaves rounded out the scoring midway through the third period on a 40-foot wrist shot to the top of the net.

The Senators hope to avoid a hangover from their run to the Stanley Cup final last year. It's a team with few holes to fill, but Paddock said he didn't take much from the game.

"Each team was missing six or seven of their better players," Paddock said. "It's sort of a continual evaluation. Players like Nick Foligno and Brian Lee, who we're watching, they played fine."

The Flyers made drastic changes, adding Briere, Timonen, Smith, Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul and goaltender Martin Biron after a nightmarish season.

"We really want to put last year behind us, quickly. We don't want to dwell on that," said Carter, the second star.


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