The 2008-09 season has turned into a splintered campaign for goalie Martin Gerber.
The frustrated Gerber can only sit at the end of the bench and wonder when coach Craig Hartsburg will tap him for his next start.
To make matters worse for Gerber, who hasn't started since a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Nov. 7, he really can't complain because of the way teammate Alex Auld is playing.
So Gerber, who is making No. 1 money ($3.7 million US) to back up Auld, is left to scratch his head about when he'll get another chance to play.
NOT ONE TO COMPLAIN
Last year, Gerber was the club's clear-cut No. 1 goalie ahead of the wayward Ray Emery.
This season, Gerber has had to make himself comfortable at the end of the bench, but he's not about to create waves.
"It's definitely not happy times. That's for sure," the 34-year-old Gerber said following an hour-long practice yesterday at Scotiabank Place. "There's nothing you can do about it except work hard."
Auld will make his seventh straight start when the Maple Leafs pay a visit on Thursday.
While Hartsburg was non-committal about when he might use Gerber again, the coach did say the Swiss netminder will get his chance because the club has "lots of games coming up here."
But the Senators also realize Auld has been their best player through the first 20 games of the season and they need that consistency if they are going to contend for a playoff spot.
"There's going to be an opportunity for (Gerber) to contribute. It's more about (Auld) than it is about (Gerber). (Auld) has been good," said Hartsburg.
While Gerber stopped 28-of-30 shots in his last appearance, his numbers this season tell the story: He is 1-4-1 in six appearances with a 3.17 GAA and a .898 save-percentage.
Auld, who is ranked eighth in the NHL with a .926 save percentage, lost five straight before the club broke its six-game losing skid with a 4-1 victory over the Rangers on Saturday, but he has kept the Senators many game this season.
Auld, who signed a two-year, $2-million contract in the off-season with the Senators, was the most attractive backup goalie on the free-agent market after finishing off strong with the Bruins last season.
"I've probably played more games than I expected coming in, but I feel good about where I'm at, but obviously I'd like some more wins," said Auld, who has a 6-5-3 record with a 2.04 GAA. "After I went to Boston (last year), I felt played pretty well and pretty consistently.
"There were some long stretches without playing (last year), but I think I really learned how to stay sharp through long periods of rest. That's because every game was so important and we were in a dogfight for a playoff spot right down to the end.
"I feel that's just kind of carried over for me into this year."
Gerber said he's trying to stay positive.
"All you can do is work hard in practice. You have to push as hard as possible to stay in the best shape possible," said Gerber.