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Gerber's got his groove on

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Martin Gerber is back in a groove and the timing couldn’t be any better for the Ottawa Senators goaltender and his teammates.

Thanks to the Swiss stopper’s strong play, the Senators were able to salvage three points from their just-completed four-game western road swing – including a huge 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. Gerber and the Senators will try to build on that bit of momentum Tuesday night, when the Boston Bruins visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sens TV, Team 1200).

“He gave us a chance in every game,” Senators head coach/general manager Bryan Murray said after an up-tempo workout Monday morning at the Bell Sensplex. “He was really good, solid, real patient in the net. He held position on a number of great scoring chances by the opposition. He was really the way Martin Gerber is capable of playing.”

While the Senators couldn’t get Gerber a win on the trip until Saturday – a goal-scoring shortage was the culprit – it appears his play is helping to grow an increased sense of confidence around him.

“It seems like he’s playing with a lot of confidence in there,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza. “As a team, we should feed off the confidence he’s showing and it should help us gain (more) confidence as a team.”

Added captain Daniel Alfredsson: “He’s playing exceptionally well lately and giving us a chance to win every game. If he continues that, there’s no question it’s going to give us confidence and it’s nice to see.”

Gerber, for his part, feels his current run of five straight starts has helped settle his game.

“It’s definitely nice to be playing,” said Gerber, who allowed only nine goals on the four-game road trip. “As a goalie, you want to get as many games as possible in a row. It definitely helps to stay in there and work on things and get things going.

“The comfort level is definitely better than it was the last few months. You can focus more and work hard and do your best. It’s a little bit less of a worry about what’s going to happen the next day and that helps for sure.”

Murray has noticed a change in Gerber’s mindset, too.

“It’s almost like there’s a relief in his game now,” he said. “He knows he’s getting a chance and he’s stepped back up to the plate and done a real good job. I would be wrong if I didn’t try to run with him for the time being.”

Despite their struggles of late, the Senators remain very much in the thick of the race for top spot in the Eastern Conference. With 83 points, they’re only three behind the conference-leading New Jersey Devils and just a pair back of the Montreal Canadiens, who currently hold down the No. 2 seed as the Northeast Division frontrunners.

With 10 of their final 12 games slated against divisional foes – including three with the Habs – the Senators surely hold their fate in their hands.

“We’ve got a lot of divisional games, which is going to determine where we finish,” said centre Mike Fisher, who ended an 18-game goalless drought with a pair against the Coyotes. “We’ve got be hungry. It means a lot. We’ve played well against some of these teams in big games and that’s what we have to do.

“But our focus right now is obviously playoffs and playing our best hockey going in, regardless of where we’re seeded. If we’re playing our best hockey, we don’t care who we play.”

Around the boards

Alfredsson (back) sat out practice today and remains doubtful against the Bruins. “I’ll probably try to skate tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” he said. “It’s doubtful as it goes right now. We’ll see.” … Murray said forward Chris Neil (knee) is "about two weeks away" from returning to game action. He might try skating for the first time since the injury during Tuesday's practice ... Fewer than 200 tickets remain for Tuesday’s game.

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