Gerber gives Sens a scare

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

There were a few nervous moments during practice for the Senators yesterday at Scotiabank Place.

On the eve of their pivotal Game 3 Eastern Conference quarter-final tonight against the Penguins, near panic set in when goaltender Martin Gerber was flattened by a shot.

After taking a hard shot in the throat area from defenceman Christoph Schubert, Gerber needed a few moments to catch his breath and get some medical attention before returning to the net to finish off what was left of the practice.

While Ottawa can ill-afford to lose another player, the loss of Gerber -- coming off a 49-save performance in Friday's 5-3 loss in Pittsburgh -- could have been disastrous.

"(Gerber) can play. I don't think anybody doubts that. I know I don't," said defenceman Mike Commodore. "It seemed like we allowed 150 shots in the last game and he did great. He kept us in it. If we can limit the power-play opportunities and play hard, we've got a chance."

PATHS OF DESTRUCTION

The Senators and Ducks paved their way to the Stanley Cup final last spring. A year later, they're travelling in the same direction again -- to the brink of elimination. With Ottawa trailing Pittsburgh 2-0 and Anaheim behind the Stars by the same margin, the NHL could know there will be two different Cup finalists within a matter of days. But Senators W Cory Stillman was in the same position in 2006 in the first round with the Hurricanes, who came to back to win the series against the Canadiens. Carolina, of course, went on to win the Stanley Cup. "(That story) has already been brought up, that's for sure," said Stillman. "You look around the (different) series and there's a lot of teams that are down 2-0. People are counting us out, but aren't counting other teams out. It's important that we come back and rebound and play a strong game (tonight). It's Game 3 in the series. It could make it 2-1 and it could tilt the ice our way." Stillman said he doesn't believe there's anything to the fact both finalists are both behind. "I think it's a coincidence (that both teams are down). (The Ducks) played on home ice and we played away. It's a matter of going out, working, getting bounces and getting goaltending," said Stillman.

HOME SWEET HOME

The Senators are hoping home-ice advantage will play a big role in getting them back into this series. While there hasn't been a lot of excitement surrounding the team in Ottawa, people are looking forward to the club being back at Scotiabank Place. "I looked at all the games around the league with the towel waving and (the fans) don't play the game, but they do give emotion," said Senators coach and GM Bryan Murray. "Hopefully, they can lift the players. It's exciting for the young players to have that kind of adrenaline rush when they come on the ice. It really shouldn't matter that much that we haven't played a home game and we are down 2-0. We hope that they'll help." The Senators have a 26-22 lifetime playoff record at home. "We have to go in with confident attitude and be ready," said Ottawa C Antoine Vermette. "We can't afford to feel sorry for ourselves. That's not going to help us get a win. We just have to work hard and believe in ourselves."

GETTING A SHOT

Murray plans to put F Alexander Nikulin into the lineup even if ailing C Jason Spezza plays. Brought up from Binghamton of the AHL, Nikulin will likely bump W Randy Robitaille out of the lineup. What does Murray hope Nikulin brings? "Youth," said Murray with a smile. "He's a skilled kid. He's smart. He's played two games in the NHL with limited ice time. He had a good second half (in the AHL), but let's be fair to him. He's a young player with the ability to develop into an NHL player. He needs a little time and a little opportunity to play. It would be nice to have him play some pre-season games, rather than throw him into an NHL (playoff) game, but the facts of life are that he has to do that."


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