Flu might sink Fisher

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

The only fishers at Scotiabank Place yesterday were the members of the media casting their lines in hopes of landing John Paddock's future goalie plans.

Missing was the one who wears No. 12 and represents an important cog of the Senators' front lines.

Centre Mike Fisher missed practice, the latest Ottawa player to get tackled by the flu bug. His status for tonight's game at The Bank against the Sabres will be determined this morning.

"I think you have to put a question mark on him based on how the other guys reacted," Paddock said, referring to Fisher's three teammates who were previously knocked out of the lineup with the virus. "I'm certainly hopeful he's going to play, but I don't know."

Fisher has certainly been hot of late. He has seven goals in the past seven games, including the overtime winner the last time out vs. Tampa. Also on something of a roll is goalie Ray Emery, who has won his last two starts and probably thought he'd get a chance to keep running with the ball.

But Paddock has decided to go with Martin Gerber, who was last seen surrendering 10 goals in about 66 minutes over two games against the Capitals, before being replaced by Emery.

"There's reasons for making the decision and they're my reasons," said Paddock, refusing to elaborate. "That's it."

While there's no doubt he wants to prevent Gerber from turning stale, speculation is that Paddock is saving Emery for the Red Wings in a highly anticipated matchup of two conference leaders here Saturday.

BEST GAME VS. WINGS

Emery's best game as an NHLer has to be the 3-2 win he had in Detroit on Dec. 12, 2006 -- the last time the clubs clashed. Emery made 43 saves to beat his old buddy, Dominik Hasek.

"You're automatically going to look at it that way to some extent," Paddock said of the game against Detroit being a measuring stick. "It wouldn't quite be right to say it's another game. But realistically, (conference rivals) Buffalo, Montreal, Philadelphia ... those are more important games than Detroit.

"I would love to play Detroit again after Saturday ... I don't really care who we play, but I'd love to play them in the end, because that means we're in the final. But other than that, I'd rather beat Philadelphia and Montreal and Boston than Detroit, really."

Gerber, who is 1-0-1 with a 2.71 GAA in his career vs. the Wings, claims he doesn't even try to figure out the coach's thinking on the rotation.

Like his teammates, Gerber also insists nobody is looking beyond tonight's game.

"You can't be dreaming out there (against the Sabres)," said Gerber. "They have good players who can tear you apart if you're not playing attention."

The Sabres are on a slide, however. They are 0-4-3 in their last seven games and will be missing offensive keys Derek Roy (shoulder) and Maxim Afinogenov (groin) tonight.

They are also throwing a curve in regards to their own goaltending.

TO FACE THIBAULT

Coach Lindy Ruff, who normally doesn't name his starter before the day of the game, yesterday announced that backup Jocelyn Thibault would face the Senators. Ryan Miller, who has played in 38 of the team's 41 games and has been the goalie of record in 18 of the last 20, was chased by the Senators in the second period of last Friday's 5-3 loss.

"I don't think we're going to look too far ahead to Saturday yet," said Senators winger Dany Heatley. "Buffalo has a very good team and we've had some good battles with them over the years."

Heatley said that despite the injuries and the slump, the Sabres will not be taken lightly.

"I think we saw Tampa in the same kind of situation (Saturday) and they came out 2-0 on us real quick and probably outplayed us for most of that game," he said.


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