Sens' winning 'attitude'

Daniel Alfredsson skated then left before the Sens had their practice on Wednesday. SUN MEDIA/Tony...

Daniel Alfredsson skated then left before the Sens had their practice on Wednesday. SUN MEDIA/Tony Caldwell

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:42 PM ET

MONTREAL -- Isn't it incredible how things can spin around in a week?

Seven days ago, the Senators were shut out by the Kings, the worst team in the NHL. It was their third straight loss. They were in serious trouble. Maybe there wasn't enough time to fall completely out of the playoff picture, but they were certainly shaping up as easy first-round fodder.

Now, suddenly, they're smiling again. They have rediscovered their scoring touch. Their broken power play appears fixed. They're doing a much better job of keeping the puck out of their net.

And a win over the Habs at the Bell Centre tonight would be their third straight, 40th of the season and give them first in the Northeast Division again.

Restart the bandwagon, Jethro.

"I like their work ethic, I like the attitude now," GM/coach Bryan Murray said after yesterday's practice at the Bell Sensplex. "Sometimes when you just force guys to do a few things and work a little harder, they're happy to respond. That's what I found here."

The root of the turnaround can be found between the pipes. Murray didn't even have to formally announce his 'tender for tonight's tilt.

Remember when neither goalie was near good enough? Martin Gerber has changed all that.

"I think it's been very good," Murray said of No. 29's play lately. "Not just good. Very good."

Coming off one of his great performances in a Senators sweater, Gerber will make his seventh consecutive start at the opposite end of the ice from 20-year old rookie sensation Carey Price, who stopped 38 Devils shots for a 4-0 shutout Tuesday.

"Yeah, I gave (Gerber) a lot of advice," Murray said, with tongue in cheek, when asked about the transformation of Gerber. "He didn't take any of it, and that was a good thing.

"Same as I tell every goaltender," he said upon reconsideration. "Don't be afraid to get hit by the puck."

And now, Murray's inability to talk Chicago into a two-goalie-for-two-goalie swap at the trade deadline is starting to shape up as the best move Murray didn't make.

"I heard somebody say (Gerber) might not be a top goaltender at playoff time, but I believe he's a top goaltender in the NHL now," Murray stated. "He gives us as good a chance as most goaltenders do give their team in the league now."

Murray went on to commend Ray Emery for "trying as hard as he could" at yesterday's practice, adding that if his backup continues on that path for a "few more days he'll get a couple of games here."

"But very definitely," Murray added, "Martin looks like a goaltender that can take us a long ways."

Price and the Habs will get a break tonight, as it appears Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will miss his fifth straight game with back spasms. Alfredsson, who has 82 points in 61 career games vs. Montreal, skated yesterday, but probably needs another day or two.

HEAT IS ON

Alfredsson combined with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza for a 15-point night the last time these teams met, a 6-1 Senators win Feb. 9. Heatley and Spezza are heating up again, and both are anxious to face the Habs.

"They're ahead of us now, but they've been close all year," said Heatley, who had a hat trick Tuesday. "They've got a lot of guys offensively that can hurt you and a great goaltender.."

Said Spezza: "This is the time of year when you start watching the standings every day, everybody comes in the room and takes a peek to see what happened last night ... We're playing for first place now, against a Canadian team, in a building that's usually pretty exciting to play in. I'm sure it will be a pretty emotional game."


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