by Todd Anderson
When the Ottawa Senators begin training camp for the 2006-07 season, a friendly battle will take place in between the pipes to determine the No. 1 goaltender.
Ray Emery, 23, recently signed a one-year deal with the team and is coming back for his second NHL season. The Hamilton native is looking to build on the 2005-06 campaign in which he was named NHL defensive player of the month and rookie of the month for March; he set the NHL record for wins to begin a career with nine and he tied the NHL record for wins in a month with 12 in March.
Making his debut in Ottawa as the other goaltender this coming season will be Martin Gerber, 31. Like Emery, Gerber also enjoyed a career season in 2005-06 while patrolling the goal for the Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes. A native of Langnau, Switzerland, Gerber placed fourth in the NHL with 38 victories during his first year as a No. 1 goaltender in the league.
Playing behind starter Dominik Hasek in his rookie season, Emery made sure to pay attention and learn from the veteran. When he got the opportunity to start after Hasek was injured at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, Emery had the confidence to take full advantage of it. He played the final 22 games for Ottawa and performed admirably, despite the pressure.
Emery says it was important for his development to have that opportunity to play and it gave him a chance to show his teammates he could step in.
"It was good for me to get an opportunity to play that many games. It's good to have the guys have confidence in me. I'm excited to play. I obviously want to play as much as I can"
In Gerber's case, it was he who carried the ball for Carolina until a flu-like illness limited his ability to play at full strength. Rookie Cam Ward took over most of the duties in goal during the Hurricanes' playoff run.
"I just want to play as much as possible, and as consistent as possible," Gerber says looking ahead to next season in Ottawa. "You always have to prove yourself. I want to help this team."