Martin Gerber is in a zone, the kind of place in whichevery goaltender aspires to spend as much time as possible.
The Swiss stopper has been as big a reason as any for the Ottawa Senators’ sizzling12-1-0 start to this National Hockey League season. And he’ll get a chance to add to his gaudy numbers against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).
Head coach John Paddock revealed after this morning’s game-day skate that Gerber will make his third straight start, on the heels of back-to-back victories over the Boston Bruins on the weekend. And while there are plenty of numbers to support the decision, Paddock said it’s much simpler than that.
“It’s the coach’s prerogative who he wants to play,” said Paddock. “That’s really all there is to it … I want him to play in there again.”
Gerber, it might be pointed out, is 2-0-0 against the Leafs this season. But that would only be telling a sliver of the story. He’s 9-1-0 overall, with his league-leading win total matched by stellar goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.938) numbers.
Clearly, he’s thriving on the heavy workload. But there’s only one statistic that truly matters to Gerber.
“At the end of the day, (winning) is all that counts,” he said. “If you’re not winning, it doesn’t matter how many pucks you stop. You need the two points, and at the end, that’s all that really counts.”
That being said, Gerber is happy for another chance to start.
“It’s always great to go back in there and (keep) things going,” he said. “It’s way easier than being in and out, that’s for sure.”
While Gerber is back in, centre Jason Spezza
remains out with a groin injury that has now sidelined him for four games. There’s no word yet on when he’ll be ready to return.
The Leafs, meanwhile, are getting forwards Kyle Wellwood and Mark Bell into the lineup for the first time this season. Wellwood has missed the entire season so far while recovering from a sports hernia injury (he had surgery in September), while Bell – a former Ottawa 67’s star – is back after serving a 15-game suspension.
“They’re going to be excited to get back in there, for sure,” Senators centre Mike Fisher said of the additions to the Leafs lineup. “They’re going to be pumped up, and we expect that (tonight).”
Including pre-season, the Sens and Leafs have played three times already this season, with Ottawa prevailing each time. But it’s never been easy.
“The first three games this year were tight games … we expect nothing different tonight,” said Senators forward Dany Heatley. “We have to realize what they’re capable of, and play one of our best games tonight.”
Paddock said he likely won’t decide tonight’s lineup scratches until after the pre-game warmup … The game will be produced in high-definition format, a first for a Senators regional telecast on Rogers Sportsnet.