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Martin Gerber rebounds to become No. 1 goaltender for Senators

OTTAWA - The Senators aren't the only thing soaring in Ottawa these days.

The confidence of goaltender Martin Gerber is also sky high and, after a difficult first season in Canada's capital, the 33-year-old has emerged as the surprise No. 1 netminder on the NHL's hottest club out of the gate.

"I think we've had a good thing going since training camp started as a team and kept really building from it. Personally, I got my game back and feel more comfortable in there," says the 33-year-old native of Burgdorf, Switzerland, who will be in goal Saturday when the Senators visit the Air Canada Centre to face the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET).

With a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, Gerber recorded his league-leading 12th victory of the season against just one defeat. His .943 save percentage ranked third in the league going into Friday's games and his 1.75 goals-against average was good for sixth best.

He may not look like the most orthodox goalie at times, but he and his teammates are enjoying their share of success.

The Senators have gone 15-2-0 to start the season and are in first place overall, tying the NHL record for fewest games needed to reach 15 victories, with Gerber holding the keys.

"He's what you want from a goalie, just a chance to win it," veteran winger Shean Donovan says. "Every night he gives us a chance to win. Obviously, we can score, but a when you get a goalie like that who's playing awesome for us, you're pretty lucky."

Gerber's numbers are only part of the story. More impressive is the reversal of fortune that he's experienced.

His current form is exactly what the Senators expected of him when they signed him to a US$11.1-million, three-year deal from the Carolina Hurricanes in the summer of 2006.

Brought in to be the starter, Gerber won just three of his first 12 games before losing the job to Ray Emery, who eventually helped the Senators reach the Stanley Cup final.

The Senators signed Emery to a $9.5-million, three-year contract this summer and Gerber reportedly asked general manager Bryan Murray for a change of address if it meant more playing time. With no takers, Gerber came to camp hoping to at least showcase himself to any potential employers.

But when Emery was slow to return from off-season surgery to repair torn wrist cartilage, Gerber made the most of the opportunity to get a string of starts under his belt.

"The more games you play, the easiest it gets," Gerber says. "It keeps you right in where you want to be and it's a better way to stay on top of things."

Emery, who's played only three games, is now the one on the outside looking in, finding himself the subject of trade rumours while Gerber is the incumbent and getting better with each passing game.

"I think he's played better in the last week than he's been before," Senators coach John Paddock says. "There's not pucks lying around, he's just completely in control of his game right now."

Last season, it took Gerber until Feb. 27 to win his 12th game, en route to just 15 victories in total, but his turnaround actually started after he'd gotten over his initial stumble. And, according to Paddock, after Gerber overcame the culture shock of playing in a Canadian market for the first time.

In his past 24 decisions dating back to last season, Gerber is 21-1-2.

"I think he's comfortable having eight mics in front of his face and last year he wasn't," Paddock says. "I think that's part of it. I don't think you can underestimate that a some things are just different playing in Canada and playing under pressure.

"There's pressure for him on the ice and there's pressure for him when you have to answer questions from a lot of people (in the media), rather than just one or two."


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