In Gerber they trust

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Martin Gerber knows his days of having an Ottawa address are numbered.

Hence, this is a big one.

With the Senators 12th in the conference and in dire need of a lift back to the winning ledger, coach Craig Hartsburg has made the logic-defying decision to start Gerber in goal tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, one of only four NHL teams to have hit the 90-goals-for plateau at the end of yesterday's business hours.

It will be the first start in a more than a month for Gerber, and if he's to get another one any time soon, he'll have to play very well.

"With this busy week, it's a good challenge for our team, but it's a good challenge for Martin," Hartsburg, who was expected to break up a back-to-back situation for Alex Auld by giving Gerber a game in either Washington Friday or back home against Tampa Saturday, said before climbing aboard a charter for the Windy City. "We trust that Martin can go in and play good for us."

In the final year of a contract that pays him No. 1 goalie money, Gerber will be making just his seventh start (of the team's 25 games played) and first since a 2-1 loss in Carolina Nov. 7. That setback, which marked the beginning of a four-game slide for the Senators, was Gerber's first action since Oct. 30, his only win of the season.

With Auld entrenched as the Senators' main man and Brian Elliott expected to be promoted from Binghamton next season -- and management considering options that do not include Gerber if the above plans do not pan out -- the 34-year-old native of Burgdorf, Switzerland will almost certainly be an unrestricted free agent come July.

So as much as he wants to win for his teammates now, each outing for him also has serious career ramifications.

"It's in the back of your head, probably, it's somewhere floating around," Gerber, who against the Hawks has a lifetime 2-0-1-1 record and a 2.40 goals-against average, said about thoughts of his future beyond this season.

FOCUS ON MOMENT

"At the end of the day, you've got to do what you can do today, and really put everything into that. Not look too far ahead. Just stay focused on the moment, and everything else is going to play out the way it's going to be.

"There's not much you can do about it right now. Just work hard and make the best out of it."

Asked if he has always been able to keep that perspective or if it comes with maturity, Gerber said: "It comes with time, I think, I've not always been like that. Sometimes it's easier, sometimes it's not. Right now, you know, it just wouldn't be healthy. Feels good for the moment, you know, but it isn't really going to help you out. It's not going to help out the team, if you start focusing on something else.

"So you just keep it simple and do what you can do."


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