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Gerber gets call to face Pens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Martin Gerber saved the night for the Ottawa Senators with more than 54 minutes of shutout hockey against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now, it’ll be his game from the opening drop of the puck Thursday night, when the Senators tangle with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., Gerber was summoned from the bench in relief of an ailing Ray Emery, who retired for the evening with soreness in his right hip area after handling just one Carolina shot.

Head coach John Paddock indicated Thursday morning that Emery “is feeling quite a bit better” after his abbreviated stint against the ’Canes. But Paddock will hand Thursday night’s start to Gerber, who blocked all 31 shots he faced against his former team.

Whether Emery will be healthy enough to possibly start against the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) remains to be seen.

“We’ll have to wait for practice (Friday) to see what we do here,” said Paddock. “I can’t look past tonight’s game. We’ll just see what transpires in the next couple of days.”

The Senators surely arrived in Pittsburgh on the kind of high they haven’t felt in weeks. Not only have they reversed a seven-game winless streak with three straight victories, but this is a team coming off perhaps its most complete performance of the season. The Hurricanes, who handed Ottawa its first loss of the season way back on Oct. 11, were simply no match for the Senators at RBC Center.

Centre Mike Fisher set the tone for the one-sided triumph with a performance that Paddock called physically “dominant.”

“He was a totally dominant power player,” said Paddock. “It seemed to me (Fisher) was knocking guys off their feet and off the puck. Guys were bumping him and going down. He took the puck to the net. He hammered their toughest guy (Scott Walker) in a fight.

“I thought his game was dominant power wise, absolutely.”

Next up comes a test of a different sort against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who kickstarted the Senators’ tailspin by ralling for a 6-5 shootout triumph Nov. 22 at Scotiabank Place.

“They’re a high end, explosive team,” said Paddock. “(Crosby) is the best player … he creates things on just about every shift he plays.”

Hamel earns AHL all-star honour

Binghamton Senators forward Denis Hamel and Keith Aucoin of the Albany River Rats have been named playing captains for the American Hockey League All-Star Classic, set for Jan. 28 at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Binghamton. The captains are chosen by AHL president/CEO David Andrews in recognition of their outstanding leadership and service to the league. Hamel, the B-Sens’ franchise leader in goals, assists and points, currently tops the AHL with 16 goals this season. He’ll be the captain for the Canadian team that will face off against PlanetUSA. Tickets for the game are available by contacting the Binghamton Senators at (607) 722-7367.

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