Good to go with Gerbs

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Unless those hoodlums with the Palladium Dr. fixed address are too distracted by the expensive jewelry on customers in the lower bowl and thoughts of how they're going to relieve them of it, they should be able to live up to Don Cherry's expectations and steal two points against the easy pickings visiting from Atlanta tonight.

With that plan, the Senators are turning once again to the moustachioed masked man who beat the last, last-place team to drop by Scotiabank Place.

Fresh off his first shutout since March 13 and just his second win of the season, Martin Gerber will attempt to roll the Thrashers the way he did the Lightning on the weekend.

Making his first back-to-back starts in almost two months (Oct. 18-22 home losses to Boston and Florida) gives the netminder an enviable opportunity to get his season back on track.

Atlanta and Tampa are tied for last overall with the New York Islanders. The only other team worse than Ottawa is the Dallas Stars, who the Senators play at SBP Saturday after they go to New Jersey to face the Devils Friday.

That trip to the Meadowlands aside, this stretch has to be mostly considered something of an early Christmas present for a Senators team that is 5-0-2 on home ice in its last seven games.

HANDLED DEMOTION WELL

"(Gerber) had to wait his turn and he works extremely hard to keep himself prepared and ready," said coach Craig Hartsburg, who mentioned that other players (Ray Emery, maybe?) would not have handled the demotion to backup the way Gerber did. "He's always ready to play and he has played great (of late).

"We're not concerned with that (No. 1 goalie) label. Alex (Auld) played great for a long time there, and we feel very fortunate that we have two guys like that. Gerbs, early in the season, he had some struggles, but he stayed with it, mentally. Alex, the last couple games, has not been as sharp, so this is good opportunity for Martin."

Hartsburg expounded on the mental aspect of the game, and the battle for players to be "fresh and confident" over 82 games. His comments were in reference to Gerber, but encompassed the team.

"There's nothing wrong with high expectations, but they have to be the right expectations, and sometimes that pressure if they're not the right expectations can become a burden," he said.

"There's nights in this building that, when you leave, everybody, media, fans, players, coaches, we all think that was good, we played good, that's the way we want to play and that was great. It's just we can't find that consistency and that identity."

Gerber will have heat on him to win another game the Senators cannot afford to lose. He appears to be ready to handle it. In his last three games, Gerber has allowed just four goals. His teammates were clearly happy for him after he picked up his 10th career shutout.

Gerber said the puck from that game will go with the others from shutouts.

"They don't come too often, so you enjoy it," he said, "but the main thing is to win the game."

Asked if will consider keeping the moustache that is considered one of the better entries in the Senators' "bonding" contest, Gerber said: "I don't know, I was doubting it for a while ... Maybe I'll give it another shot."


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