After a busy and successful start to the season, Martin Gerber and the Ottawa Senators hope they can pick up where they left off against the Northeast Division rival Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
The Senators (6-1-0) opened the season with seven games in 11 days, producing an NHL-leading 12 points. They enter this game after a four-day layoff as they begin a stretch of three games in 14 days.
A big part of that season-opening surge has been Gerber's play in goal in place of starter Ray Emery, who is back after undergoing offseason wrist surgery.
Gerber has a league-leading five wins with a 1.99 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in six games. The Swiss goaltender is expected to start again Thursday, despite Emery being healthy.
"In some ways, it's like why change at this stage?" Senators coach John Paddock told the team's official Web site. "(Gerber) has deserved to play based on his play. It's not like we're 3-3 and we're looking for a change or a spark."
Gerber was outstanding again Saturday, making 36 saves in a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. Dany Heatley, Chris Phillips and Patrick Eaves set a team record by netting three goals in a 52-second span in the second period.
Gerber lost his only start against Montreal (2-1-2) last season, allowing five goals in a 6-3 home loss on Nov. 13.
He has had a hard time with the Canadiens since posting a 1.75 GAA in winning his first four career starts against them. Gerber lost the starting job with Carolina during a 2006 first-round playoff series with Montreal, dropping the first game 6-1 before being pulled in Game 2 after allowing three goals in the opening 14:46. The netminder was replaced by Cam Ward and the Hurricanes went on to win their first Stanley Cup.
Gerber ended up signing a two-year contract with Ottawa, but inconsistency and Emery's emergence cost him the starting job again before Emery's early absence this season.
"Everybody's trying to make a controversy about it and the season's barely started," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who has five goals and nine points in seven games. "It's a good problem for us to have. I think we've got good trust in Gerber, and we want Emery to get in there to play some games. That should give us a great 1-2 tandem.
"We definitely believe in both of them."
Montreal, meanwhile, is hoping to avoid a three-game losing streak for the first time this season. The team dropped its second consecutive contest after Cristobal Huet allowed the tying goal with 11 seconds to play in regulation before being scored on in Florida's third and final shootout attempt in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Panthers.
"Obviously that's a little risky to keep it at 1-0," said Huet, who finished with 24 saves. "We outplayed them the whole game, pretty much."
The Canadiens have only scored one goal in each of their last two games, squandering first-period leads in each of them. They have been better on the road, going 2-0-1 and netting nine goals.
The Senators went 5-3-0 against the Canadiens last season, including a 3-1-0 mark at home. Alfredsson and Heatley topped both teams with 10 points each in the season series.