Senators could use a Ray of hope

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 5:10 PM ET

Really, his time out must be over by now, isn't it?

Yeah, yeah, he's been taught a lesson, or whatever. Let him out of the corner and allow him to play with the other kids again.

There are four days and three games left in the practice season, for gawdsakes. You have to go with your best players now. And along with being an occasional delinquent, Ray Emery is also the Senators' best goalie.

But no, Bryan Murray will give Martin Gerber his 15th straight start tonight, even though he's generally been a model of inconsistency the previous 14.

Has Murray given any thought about giving Emery one more shot to reclaim the No. 1 job?

"I haven't for (tonight)," he said yesterday. "That's as far as I'm going."

Not exactly a vote of confidence for Gerber. Nor does he deserve one.

In tangibles, there's probably not much to choose from between Emery and Gerber. Neither one of them is very likely to win you the Cup on their play alone.

But when it comes to intangibles, Emery has the definite edge. He exudes confidence. He has the experience. He played all 20 of Ottawa's playoff games last spring, and all 10 they had the spring before that. Thirty games. That's a lot of testing under fire.

Gerber has a lifetime playoff record of 1-1. He's totally unproven at this time of year. He's also coming off another sub-par performance, this time showing a slow trapper.

Meanwhile, Emery is resigned to the fact Gerber is the No. 1 goalie in town.

"I don't think you change your mind about things right now," Emery said. "Marty's played well, playing in all the games the past month or so. Right now, he's the guy."

Having worked just two periods since Feb. 28, could Emery be ready if he was thrown into the heat of the battle now?

"As much as you can without having played," he said. "There's just a lot more to think about at this time of year. If you're playing all the time, everything is kind of natural. But the playoffs are there, so it's that much bigger, there's a bit more pressure and less room for error. If you haven't played, there's those factors AND a lot of things aren't routine and you kind of have to remember different things that sometimes you forget without playing in the games."

What about his swagger? Has his relegation to backup -- brought on by tardiness and undisciplined work ethic -- absorbed too much of a beating this season? Not likely. Nor has his confidence in the team.

"I think I've taken a beating," Emery said with a laugh. "No, when I play, I'm a confident guy. I think the team just kind of hit a lull, but I think all in all when it gets down to it, they'll be ready to go.

"If you look at different matchups that we might have, I don't think there's one team that I would pick that can beat us in a series. I wouldn't pick against us, if I was betting."

Here's a hunch: Bet that Emery is their goalie when the Senators play their last game this spring -- and that you never see him in one of their jerseys again.

BATTERED AND BRUISED

Captain Daniel Alfredsson missed yesterday's practice and is considered questionable for tonight's game. His exact ailment remains unknown, but he does have one. "He's been battling different things," Murray said. "This will give him another day to rest up, heal up. Hopefully, he'll skate (this morning) and play (tonight)." ... LW Cory Stillman walked without a limp yesterday after a practice in which he did not participate. He is, however, expected to miss tonight's game with the leg injury that also kept him from playing in Saturday's loss to the Bruins ... The Senators will be facing a Montreal team that yesterday announced it will be without its captain, Saku Koivu, for at least the rest of the regular season. Koivu has a fractured bone in his left foot, suffered when he was hit by a shot in Friday's game against Buffalo. He finished the game but did not play in Saturday's loss to the Leafs. While no timetable for his return was given, Habs coach Guy Carbonneau told reporters that if Koivu can put his foot in a skate without pain once the playoffs start, he could decide to play on his own ... D Mark Streit, who took a shot in the foot during the same shift as Koivu did Friday and didn't play Saturday either, is expected to play tonight.

LAST WORD

The Senators, you'll remember, had a 15-minute players-only meeting after Saturday's embarrassing loss to Boston. While tonight will be their first opportunity to show what came from it, C Mike Fisher said they've done enough talking, already. He then proceeded to make a bold statement himself. "We've had too many meetings lately. We know what we have to do," said Fisher. "We know what kind of group we are. We're still a confident group. Most people are counting us out. That's fine. We're going to prove everyone wrong."


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