Ray's mask The Greatest

Goalie Ray Emery has a new Muhammad Ali mask. (SUN MEDIA/Errol McGihon)

Goalie Ray Emery has a new Muhammad Ali mask. (SUN MEDIA/Errol McGihon)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:34 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Whether Ray Emery's new mask will help him float like a butterfly, sting like a bee remains to be seen, but maybe it will help him win back the Senators' No. 1 goaltending job.

Emery, who is on a two-game winning streak, will unveil a mask sporting three-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali tonight against the Hurricanes.

"It's good to be out of the doghouse," Emery said before the club's 90-minute flight here yesterday.

After helping the Senators earn 5-of-6 points on the road last week, Emery, 24, who had only limited playing time in November, will make his fourth consecutive start ahead of Martin Gerber.

Why?

"He's won," said Senators coach John Paddock. "That's the most important (factor). We're a win-driven operation. At times, he's looked like he's coming back to his form. Other times, he doesn't.

"But (Emery) and the team are winning. (Gerber) was winning at the start. If we were in a win one, lose one (stretch), there would be different criteria. (Emery) is winning at the moment."

After losing seven straight games, the Senators ended their longest skid in 12 years last week with a victory over the Panthers and followed up with a win against the Stars.

The plan wasn't to start Emery in four straight games, but Paddock isn't about to mess with success.

Earlier this season, the Senators weren't happy with Emery's work ethic in practice, but in the last week he has stepped it up and appears to have rediscovered his confidence.

"I play better when I'm more familiar in the net and I'm playing a bit more," said Emery, who stopped 23 shots in a 4-2 win over Dallas. "I feel good. There's room for improvement. I'm getting more comfortable in there."

Paddock said Emery still has work to do.

"I don't think he is back on track, necessarily. I don't think he's the goalie he was last year," said Paddock. "But we won (the last two games) and it gives him an opportunity to keep working at his game in game situations. He had a good practice Sunday and worked hard (yesterday). Hopefully, he's making progress."

The players continue to say they don't care who is in net.

"We want to see whoever is in there playing well and having a good game. We have a lot of confidence in both guys. We just want to keep on winning," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips.

"It's not a story for us, so it doesn't matter. (The goalie is) part of it for that night and we want to see them play their best. We have confidence in whoever is in the net for us."

How Emery performs against the Hurricanes will likely determine whether he faces Sidney Crosby and the Penguins tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

Paddock promised Gerber, who has a 13-4-1 record and 2.50 GAA, would play in one of the next three games. The Senators host Atlanta on Saturday.


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