Starting over

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Martin Gerber or Ray Emery? Who will be the Senators' starting goalie against the Florida Panthers tonight at Scotiabank Place?

Asked yesterday if he knows who will start, Senators coach John Paddock deadpanned: "I do."

So while Paddock keeps his little secret, that just fuels the debate about which goaltender should be No. 1.

Many believe Paddock, who was sounding only a little like Toronto counterpart Paul Maurice, would be crazy to take Gerber, with a 6-1 record, out of the net to replace him with Emery, who hasn't started since Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final in June.

"I think I sort of got tricked myself because (former coach) Bryan (Murray) always announced the day before who was going to start," said Paddock following a light one-hour skate yesterday. "So, I said the other day I would, and then I thought, 'Why?'

"Nobody knows the rest of the lineup the day before and the goalie is just like the rest of the other players."

Since mum's the word in Senators Land, Gerber and Emery weren't about to tip their hands either for fear they'd get their wrists slapped. But it would appear Paddock is leaning toward staying with Gerber, who has a 2.13 goals-against average and .936 save-percentage.

WEEK-LONG BREAK

Giving Emery, who led the club down the path to the Stanley Cup final last spring then had off-season wrist surgery, the start might be disruptive. The Senators have a week-long break in the schedule until they face the New Jersey Devils and even Emery admitted the time off will give him more of a chance to get sharp for the season.

"I'm just waiting to see if I get a chance to get in there," said Emery, who signed a three-year, $9.5-million US deal in the off-season.

"When I hear, I'll be ready, but I definitely don't know yet.

"We've got some time off here and I can get my feet back under me in practice and I can use that time to get more comfortable, but hopefully I will get a game in the next week or two. Whenever it is, I'll be ready."

Gerber was tight-lipped as well.

"It's good for the team," said Gerber. "It's going to depend on how much ice time we each get.

"The more ice time we get, the better it is for each of us. We'll see how things go. Right now, we're just battling for the ice time."

Paddock, who should be reminded the club has a 7-1 record when he names his starter the day before the game, said he likes the situation and believes the competition is healthy.

"It's a lot better than the alternative which is having one and somebody who lacks experience or whatever the situation is," said Paddock. "Every situation is different. If you're Vancouver and you've allotted $7 million a year for Roberto Luongo, then you know your backup is going to make the minimum and it might be a 35-year-old veteran or a 21-year-old kid who isn't going to play.

"That's great because that's how the team is set up. Our team has just evolved and set up differently this season. I don't think there's any way to look at it as a problem.

"Even if somebody isn't playing well, it's still not a bad problem because the other person is going to play more."


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