Gerber cool under fire

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Martin Gerber has a shiny new painted mask, but he doesn't plan on wearing it yet.

Superstitious? Maybe, but you can't blame the Senators goalie for not wanting to change anything. Gerber is 4-0 heading into tonight's game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

"I like the design and everything, but I'm pretty comfortable with my old one so far," said Gerber with a smile yesterday before the club's flight to Atlanta.

Not only is Gerber the only goalie in Senators' history to go unbeaten in four straight games from the start of the season, he has a 1.73 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. Those are lofty numbers for a guy who wasn't supposed to be in an Ottawa uniform this season.

"It's definitely more enjoyable, that's for sure," said Gerber, who has taken over the No. 1 role with Ray Emery still trying to return from off-season wrist surgery.

So, why the change?

"He's relaxed," said Senators coach John Paddock. "He got off to a good start in the first exhibition game. Last year he didn't get off to a good start, then had to face (the media).

"I know they have (one) beat writer in Carolina, so there's about 20 times the amount of people in here right now and that's every day. That makes a difference. We struggled and those things mentally were tough (on Gerber)."

Gerber admitted he had a difficult time dealing with the pressure after he arrived with a three-year, $11.1 million US contract. Not only did the struggles shatter his confidence, it hurt his concentration and he used the summer to clear his head.

"We had struggles last year, the team was up and down, and I wasn't where I wanted to be," said Gerber. "I'd be lying if I said (I wasn't bothered). It's definitely different than playing in the (United States).

"Hearing about it, reading about it and experiencing it are a different thing. That's not an excuse, but you definitely have to get used to (the scrutiny)."

Paddock said it's helped that the Senators have played solid hockey in front of Gerber. That wasn't the case last year when the club was 1-3-0 after the first four games.

"He had a bad start last year and the team had a bad start," said Paddock. "They've both flip-flopped. They quite often go hand-in-hand, but at some point, the goaltender has to steal a game and at some point you've got to score six goals to steal a game. That's teamwork."

Nobody is sure about Emery's return date. He skated with the team and made the trip, but needs to have a few solid practice sessions.


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