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Ray Emery helped the Ottawa Senators shut out the Florida Panthers in their last matchup, but he won't get the chance to do that Wednesday when the teams meet at Scotiabank Place.

The Senators goaltender is beginning a three-game suspension for slashing Montreal's Maxim Lapierre in a 5-3 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday. Emery swung his stick and hit Lapierre in the face in the second period, but the forward was wearing a visor and was not hurt.

Ottawa's No. 1 netminder will be eligible to return Feb. 22 at Buffalo. He will be replaced by backup Martin Gerber, who is 8-9-1 with a 3.09 goal-against average this season and has won three straight starts.

Gerber will be backed up by Kelly Guard, who was recalled from Binghamton of the AHL.

"I'm not focusing on the three games, just the next one is the most important," Gerber told the team's official Web site. "Preparation is the same. You can't switch your rhythm or habits just because something like (Emery's suspension) happens."

Gerber is 6-1-1 with a 2.23 GAA in eight career starts versus the Panthers - his most wins against any opponent - and has the full support of his teammates.

"(Gerber) has been working hard," Senators center Jason Spezza told the team's Web site. "We've been riding Ray and he's been great. Now Gerbs steps in, and we feel confident with him."

The Senators (32-22-3) should feel especially confident against Florida, as they are 7-1-1 in the last nine meetings between the teams. They have outscored the Panthers 12-4 in two wins this season, including a 6-0 victory on Nov. 30 when Emery recorded the shutout.

Ottawa leading scorer Dany Heatley has five goals and two assists in the two victories over Florida.

This contest begins a three-game homestand for the Senators, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games in Ottawa.

They are coming off a home-and-home series sweep of the Canadiens, who the Panthers (22-25-11) also beat 1-0 on Tuesday. Jay Bouwmeester scored late in the second period and Ed Belfour made it hold up with 29 saves, including 16 in the final 20 minutes.

"This guy's unbelievable as far as taking care of his body, as far as stretching and understanding his body and knowing what he has to do," said Panthers coach Jacques Martin, who is the winningest coach in Ottawa franchise history with a 341-255-96 record in nine seasons there. "It's nice to see him get some results."

It was Belfour's 76th career shutout, tying him with Tony Esposito for eighth on the NHL all-time list.

"It's definitely an honor to be tied with Tony, one of my heroes," Belfour said.

The veteran netminder has gone a dismal 0-6-2 with a 5.06 GAA in his last nine games against the Senators, however, which may mean Alex Auld will get the nod Wednesday.

The Panthers are trying to match their season-high three-game winning streak set Dec. 16-21. They are just 7-15-8 away from home this season, though, and have won only two of their last 10 road games.

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