Martin Gerber's first start in more than two weeks is bound to be a special one. He'll make it in the building where he enjoyed his most successful season against the team he helped lead to its first Stanley Cup.
Gerber will try to help the Ottawa Senators get back in the win column when they head to the RBC Center to take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
During his only season with Carolina (13-9-3) in 2005-06, Gerber was 38-14-6 with a 2.78 goals-against average in 60 games, but an injury during the playoffs gave rookie Cam Ward a chance to shine.
Gerber made four postseason starts and six overall appearances during the Hurricanes' championship run, going 1-1 with a 3.52 GAA. Ward was 15-8 with a 2.14 GAA and named Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Gerber left Carolina to sign a three-year, $11.1 million deal with Ottawa (11-12-1) in the offseason, but has struggled to a 3-8-1 record with a 3.45 GAA. After splitting time with Ray Emery earlier this season, Gerber hasn't played in the last seven games.
He gets the chance to get back on track Tuesday in his return to Raleigh.
"I'm looking forward to it, definitely," Gerber told the Senators' official Web site after practice Monday. "I'm going to take it day-by-day, shot-by-shot and keep trying to move forward."
Gerber made 37 saves in a home matchup with the Hurricanes on Nov. 4, but the Senators lost 3-2. Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said Gerber's hard work in practice helped him earn another opportunity.
"Watching him practice, he looks a lot better," Murray told the team's Web site. "He looks more poised and confident.
"I think there are two things that have to happen here. Ray gets a day where he can sit on the bench and watch a game and get refocused, and Martin gets a chance to get back in. He's done lots of work."
The Senators' season-high four-game winning streak was snapped with a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday. Jason Spezza got Ottawa on the board less than four minutes into the game, but that's all the offense the team mustered as it was held to less than two goals for the first time in 14 games.
Dany Heatley, who leads the Senators with 14 goals and 29 points, has eight goals and 11 assists in 17 career games versus Carolina. Right wing and linemate Daniel Alfredsson has recorded a point in 11 of his last 12 games against the Hurricanes with five goals and seven assists in that span.
The Senators are concluding a four-game road trip in Raleigh, where they've lost just one of their previous nine games.
Carolina, which is beginning a three-game homestand, looks to win its season-high third straight game there.
The Hurricanes avoided a winless three-game road trip with a 5-1 victory over Boston on Friday. Justin Williams had a goal and an assist and Eric Staal scored his team-leading 14th goal for the Hurricanes, who outshot the Bruins 40-26.
"That was a big point in the game for us," said Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore, who had two assists. "I think with the new rules, you don't want to think you've got it (won). But you know you don't have to press."
John Grahame made consecutive starts for the first time this season, stopping 25 shots, but is just 2-7 with a 3.67 GAA in 12 career games against Ottawa. Ward won his only career start versus the Senators earlier this season.