Looking out for No. 1

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:56 PM ET

TAMPA -- Win and you're in.

After alternating goaltenders for the last nine games, Senators coach John Paddock is changing things up in the net.

With an eye toward picking a clear-cut No. 1 after the next 10-15 games, Paddock is looking for either Martin Gerber or Ray Emery to show they're worthy of the job.

Crunch time is coming.

Paddock put a time frame on it yesterday.

"I think we're going to go a different route now. You win and you just keep playing and we're looking for somebody to grab that bull by the horns," said Paddock. "There's a time coming in the next 10-15 games where we have to start picking somebody based on: 'Here's the schedule. There's four games in six days and somebody is going to play three of them because he's who we're going to go with.' "

Gerber will get the first chance to show he's up to the job tonight vs. the Lightning.

The competition is on.

"We had a meeting about it and (Paddock) said that's the plan and there you go," said Gerber.

"It's probably the simplest way. Of course, you want to play every game. If you have two guys, one guy is always going to run short. I don't know if it's the best. (With a No. 1) you know what's going on, how things are going to be and it makes things a little bit simpler.

"You have to take what you can get. You try and get the first win, try to build off that and get something going. If you get on a streak, you definitely deserve to be in there. When you go in and out, no one gets hot that way ... If you play good, you have a chance to go again and establish your game. From that perspective, I think it's a better approach."

Emery wasn't around to comment yesterday. He missed practice to have an MRI on his left wrist, which apparently is still bothering him after off-season surgery in June. He played most of last season with ligament issues and helped the Senators to the Stanley Cup final by stopping the ones he was supposed to stop.

"We have to get back to playing where we don't need great goaltending," said Paddock.

"Everybody is responsible. They're solid NHL goalies. They're not (Roberto) Luongo or (Martin) Brodeur, but they're capable and the team is capable of playing better defence in front of them. If the rest of the players can play the game without the puck that they've played, then we wouldn't be in quite as serious a predicament."

You would have to give Gerber the inside track. He was outstanding to start the season, posting a 12-1 record.

But like the rest of the team, his fortunes have taken a downward turn and neither he nor Emery have been consistently strong.

"It's a concern. It's part of an equation. I don't think you can say we've lost five out of six because the goaltending has been no good," said Paddock.

"But I think you can say that it's part of the equation. You have to have good goaltending to be successful so our level of goaltending has to be better. So does our battle level, so do a couple of other things. The bottom line is there has to be some saves made.

"I hope they each allow one goal a game for the next 10 games and we really do have to pick ... rather than they each allow four each game for the next 10 games ... make the decision for me."

HEAR AND THERE: We'd like to be able to tell you if Ottawa native Dan Boyle will play tonight, but the Tampa defenceman said he can't talk to the media. He's been sidelined for all but four games by a falling skate that sliced his arm and has been told by coach John Tortorella not to talk about it. Here's betting he plays ... Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said his hip felt fine, but he skipped skating and rode the bike instead ... Tortorella on his relationship with rookie Mike Lundin: "I'm not yelling at him. I'm coaching him." I'm sure the kid feels better knowing that.


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