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Ray Emery makes his much-antipicated season debut for the Ottawa Senators, leaving one of the NHL's hottest goaltenders will be on the bench.
The surging Senators look to improve the league's best record and make it five straight wins over the Florida Panthers when the teams meet Saturday night at Scotiabank Place.
After leading the Senators (7-1-0) to the Eastern Conference title, Emery figured to be Ottawa's undisputed starting goaltender this season. Offseason wrist surgery, though, delayed his return and Martin Gerber shows no signs of giving up the No. 1 job.
Gerber leads the NHL in wins (6), is seventh in save percentage (.936) and ninth in goals-against average (2.13).
Head coach John Paddock is confident that Emery, who recently completed a conditioning stint in the minors, can keep the Senators on a winning path.
"We're looking for the situation to continue and I think when (Emery) plays, it will continue just because the team's playing well," Paddock told the Senators' official Web site. "He'll go into his spot and the team rolls on. That's what we're looking to do here, keep rolling on."
Gerber stopped 28 shots and captain Daniel Alfredsson set up three goals, leading Ottawa to a 4-3 victory Thursday over visiting Montreal.
The line of Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza - arguably the league's best - accounted for two goals and three assists in the win. That trio has already combined for 13 goals and 22 assists this season.
Spezza has at least one point in all seven games and leads the NHL with 11 assists. Heatley has seven goals, scoring one in each of the last three games.
Ottawa has already proven it has no problem winning close games. Three of the Senators' seven wins have been by one goal while the other four have been by two goals.
Left wing Antoine Vermette left Thursday's game in the first period because of back spasms and did not return. Vermette is fifth on the team with five points.
Facing Florida (3-4-0) doesn't figure to cool off the Senators, who won all four meetings last season by a combined 20-6. Ottawa is 18-4-1 in the past 23 matchups.
Heatley has six goals and five assists during a five-game point streak against the Panthers.
Florida squandered a two-goal lead and had its three-game win streak snapped Thursday with a 3-2 loss at Toronto.
David Booth and Rotislav Olesz scored for the Panthers, who have lost three of four road games.
Craig Anderson started in place of No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun, who sat out with an ankle sprain suffered in a 2-1 shootout win Tuesday at Montreal. Vokoun is not expected to miss significant time.
Captain Olli Jokinen was held without a point for the second game in a row. Jokinen is tied with Scott Mellanby for the franchise lead in points (354) and his next goal will be his 157th with Florida, tying him with Mellanby for the club record.
Nathan Horton, coming off a career-high 31 goals last season, is off to a strong start in 2007-08. He has three goals and three assists during a four-game point streak.
Horton, though, has been limited to two goals and one assist in 10 career games against Ottawa.