With many people around the league beginning to sour on the Ottawa Senators' playoff hopes after a rash of injuries, Daniel Alfredsson was clear on Friday that this team isn't out of it yet.
Alfie acknowledged the injuries to the likes of Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and others were big subtractions from the roster, but ultimately feels the work ethic of the group and systems in place will give them enough to work with going forward.
"It's a big blow for us, there's no question with what Erik does for this team. But, we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," said Alfredsson. "We're in a tough spot without some of our top players but at the same time it's a great opportunity for some other guys. I think we have a good system in place and if we work hard we're still going to give ourselves chances to win games."
With so much youth being injected into the lineup by way of reinforcements, the Sens will be playing the high energy hockey you can expect from young legs. Alfredsson also suggested that this is a good reflection of the job the front office has done to fill out the depth of the franchise. Meaningful minutes for young players now will eventually pay dividends down the road.
"It will be a vibrant group, there's no question," said Alfredsson. "What management has done and the scouting staff has done to give this organization more depth is a good thing and is going to help us not just right now but also down the road."
The Sens are accustomed to the role of the underdog under Head Coach Paul MacLean. In 2011-12, many wrote them off as bottom feeders destined for the draft lottery before the team earned a playoff berth. Now, with fans and pundits around the league crossing the Sens off their list of playoffs threats with no Karlsson or Spezza, the team will be looking to make the rest of 2013 a case of déjà vu for opponents.
Alfredsson says people can expect the team to develop that underdog's chip on the shoulder once again.
"I think this group, we weren't expected to do much last year and people aren't going to expect us to do much now either. We feel that as a motivator and we're going to go out there and work hard every night and give ourselves a chance to win."
The Ottawa Senators are replacing an Erik with an Eric on their roster, but that won't be carrying over on to the ice.
Eric Gryba joined the Sens on Friday after being called up. While the prospect is having a great season in Binghamton with the Baby Sens, his style of game couldn't be much more different from that of Erik Karlsson.
"Karlsson's an irreplaceable player," Gryba said. "I'm not going to come in here and do anything other than what my strengths are: hard work, physical presence, keep it simple."
"You're not going to see too many toe drags from me out there but hopefully I keep the puck out of the net."
At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds — a frame reminiscent of players on NFL defences — it's fitting he'll sport the number 62 for the Sens. He goes about his business the way many football linemen do — a lot more physicality than flash.
With the chance of his first ever NHL action coming Saturday night in Toronto, Gryba has the opportunity to walk into one of the biggest stages the League has to offer: The Battle of Ontario on Hockey Night in Canada.
Needless to say, it doesn't get much more exciting than that for Gryba or his family and friends.
"I'm excited to get the chance to hopefully contribute to that," Gryba said. "Last night I called all my buddies who are Leafs fans to let them know and see if they wanted to come down to the game."
A mentor for Gryba this season has been his head coach in Binghamton, former Senators defenceman Luke Richardson. Gryba has flourished in The 'A' this season under Richardson, posting a plus-28 in 38 games despite only recording 11 of his own points.
Not only that, but there's a good chance he would still be standing in Binghamton had Richardson not been there to wake Gryba up when he got word.
"It was surreal," Gryba said. "I stood there and Luke kinda had to snap me out of it, I couldn't believe it."
Good coaching can go a long way. For Gryba, it took him over 400 kilometres.
Your daily roundup of what the Internet has to say about the Ottawa Senators...(is back from a one day hiatus)
With the Ottawa Senators a few hours away from their Wednesday night tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Sens are up against it physically tonight having finished up their game with the Buffalo Sabres less than 24 hours ago. Throw in a midnight flight and late check-in and you have a less than ideal way to take on Sidney Crosby & Co.
Marc Methot was a rock at the back end for the Sens against the Sabres on Tuesday and says that making sure you're taken care of physically is priority number one for a game like this.
"The obvious one is that we came in pretty late last night. Making sure that our bodies are ready and that we're well rested for tonight will be huge," said Methot, adding that the momentum of a win helps the situation.
The Sens made a point of going back to basics this week. Lots of shots on net and traffic in and around the opposition's crease have helped increase the potency of an attack that had disappeared over the last few games. Going forward the plan is to keep that approach consistent.
"We played a lot more simple. We weren't trying to do too much with the puck and we were driving the net pretty hard. Defensively we were strong, especially with Andy back there obviously and we had some good key penalty kills," said Methot. "Having timely goals for and getting the puck out of our end as quickly as possible is huge."
"Against a team on the road we're going to have to muck up some goals. They may not be the prettiest ones but those are the ones that will help us win and, like I said, there's no exception with that tonight."
Methot had a bit of a tweak to his sweater on Tuesday as he took on the 'A' typically worn by Jason Spezza which the coaching staff has been rotating amongst players. The letter was a new experience for Methot who hasn't worn one in some time.
"I think it was an exhibition game in Columbus. That would have been the last time so that was pretty cool for me," said Methot. "I don't ever actually expect it. I think we have so many good leaders in this room, the letter is obviously significant but we have a lot of guys who are capable."
If he keeps his level of play this high going forward, one would have to think the 'A' will be a regular sight on his jersey.
Watching Erik Karlsson play hockey this season has been a pleasure for anyone who has had the opportunity. The growth in his game from a year ago has been remarkable for two reasons:
1 He has now launched himself into the echelon of the best of the best.
2) He is visibly improved from a year ago despite being the reigning Norris Trophy winner.
Seeing advances in a player's game like that are few and far between, particularly when you're already at the level Karlsson has reached. The way he controls play and jumps into the rush in games this season confirms his status as a truly elite player.
I brought you the NHL Network's early Vezina predictions earlier this afternoon so we'll follow it up with some Norris ones. If Anderson and Karlsson can keep up their pace throughout the season they would be just the third tandem to win a Vezina and a Norris.
It's been obvious to anyone who has watch the Sens play this year that Craig Anderson is the backbone of this team. He has shut down opposing offences each night he has taken to the crease and leads the NHL in multiple statistical categories.
With a shortened season affording players less time to build a body of work this year, some gazes have already shifted to early award picks now that we have hit the quarter mark of the 2013 campaign.
The NHL Network did a look at their early Vezina favourites and we think you'll like their number one selection.
Your daily roundup of what the internet has to say about Ottawa Senators hockey...
Bruce Garrioch recaps the Sens' 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night and looks at Daniel Alfredsson's 2014 Olympic hopes.
Sylvain St-Laurent looks at one timely goal from Erik Karlsson that turned the Sens scoring drought around.
Don Brennan wonders if Marc Methot could be a future captain here in Ottawa.
The Senators Extra panel checks in with their predictions for Wednesday's game vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Silver Seven names Kyle Turris no. 2 in their Top 25 Sens under 25 countdown.
Jared Crozier looks at the possibility of Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson accomplishing a rare feat.
SensChirp passes along his own breakdown of the Buffalo win.
The 6th Sens looks at scoring chances from Tuesday night's game.
Travis Yost looks at the "Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson Show" which just keeps rolling.
It was a much more positive game tonight for the Ottawa Senators. Better efforts at the offensive and defensive ends of the rink couple with very disciplined play set the tone for a 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
It'll come as a big shock to many — or not — that Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson set the tone for the Sens tonight. Anderson stood tall in the back, turning aside 42 shots from the Sabres en route to his second shutout of the year. Karlsson drove play forward once again and scored the game winning goal — a shorthanded one at that — in 27 minutes of ice time. Erik Condra provided the dagger with strong play around Buffalo's crease.
Mucking it up in those parts of the rink had been the theme of practice all week for Head Coach Paul MacLean. As a team that doesn't have a plethora of puck carriers and flair up front, they're going to have to manufacture their offence by scoring on second and third opportunities. The message was definitely received — though there is certainly room to improve in that facet of the game — as both the Karlsson and Condra goals came with red shirts in tight against Ryan Miller.
The power play put a bit of a damper on the evening as it went 0-for-8 but, as Coach MacLean pointed out, the team generated plenty of opportunity with the man advantage, the puck simply didn't find the back of the net. So long as the process is there, the unit should click soon.
Here's a Twitter rundown of MacLean's comments:
Thoughts from Coach MacLean coming up...— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 13, 2013
Coach thought the team played well but kicked it up a notch after the Karlsson goal. Says it was a good team win.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 13, 2013
Emphasis on crashing the net led to the second goal, said team did a better job of creating second and third chances than last game.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 13, 2013
Coach says working around the crease needs to become habit and that it is a focus moving forward.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 13, 2013
Coach: @craiganderson41 played very well in goal. Credits defence with minimizing opportunities after the first shot.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 13, 2013
For those of you who are more audio inclined, you can listen to Coach MacLean's full post-game press conference here on this page.
Coach: The PP did a good job of creating opportunities even though it didn't convert. It's making progress.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 13, 2013
Tuesday night's game will mark Mike Lundin's first in a Sens jersey against a divisional opponent. Despite a long layover between NHL games, Lundin has looked solid in his first two games against Southeast opposition Carolina and Winnipeg, showing off his skating ability to accompany his quiet defensive play.
With two games under his belt now, he is feeling right back in the swing of things.
"Having a few more practices always helps and obviously playing the two games," said Lundin. "Every time I step on the ice with the team I feel a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more sure of fitting in and what it is I need to do to help the team."
A big part of that has to do with how he has adapted to his defensive partner, veteran Sergei Gonchar. Playing next to a creative offensive player like Gonchar has been an easy transition for Lundin thus far.
"I just try to make the plays as easy as I can for him and try to get him the puck. He's been great to play with."
With the Sabres coming to town needing to play desperate hockey, Tuesday's game will be the most demanding of Lundin's very brief Sens career. Part of the challenge beyond the intensity of a Sens-Sabres game will be dealing with the numerous looks Buffalo can throw at you up front.
"They have a little bit of everything, I think, in their forward lines. They have some big, strong guys and then they have some quick, little guys and everything in between," said Lundin. You're going to have every kind of scenario coming at you."
Having kicked off his time in Ottawa with a matchup that featured the Eric and Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner up front, Lundin should be accustomed to players who can test you in different ways.
The real challenge for him to this point in his time with the Sens has been off the ice as his wife, Shelly, gave birth to twin girls last Sunday, Lily Katherine and Sophie Leigh. Two newborns in the thick of a compacted NHL schedule only proves that there truly is no rest for the weary. The good news is, of course, everything has gone according to plan at home.
"Good, very good. Everything has gone very well so far. "
It's clear whenever he touches the puck that Jakob Silfverberg is a dynamic player. He handles passes well, he can carry the play and, according to Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson, he has one of the best shots in the league.
So why hasn't the production picked up yet?
It has all been part of a learning process for Silfverberg who is still learning the inner workings of NHL hockey. Through 14 games -- 12 this season and two in last year's playoffs -- he has only been able to muster two goals and an assist. By contrast, he still leads the Binghamton Senators in scoring with 29 points in 34 games despite not playing since the start of NHL training camp.
If you break down Silfverberg's AHL numbers, however, it shows that he was also slow out of the gate there as well. Through his first 13 games in the 'A' he recorded seven points. The next 21 games led to a run of 22 points before sticking with the big club. It's a matter of learning how the league functions and continuing to adjust to playing on smaller ice.
His focus going forward is getting to more dangerous parts of the ice.
"I get a lot of shots I just usually don't get to those shot areas where I want to shoot, I shoot a lot from right inside the blueline," said Silfverberg. "I have to get better at getting to spots in the high slot and places like that. I get a lot of shots but a lot of them aren't dangerous shots."
The fact he simply hasn't gotten it done already has a lot to do with adjusting to much stiffer competition.
"Here in the NHL it's all the best players in the world and you always play against very good D so, of course, it's harder," said Silfverberg. "But, it's a challenge and you learn something new every day."
Sens fans got a flash of that scoring ability when he showed off that wrist shot in Montreal on Feb. 3. The key, according to Jakob, isn't trying to amp up the velocity. It's a matter of trying to keep it quick and accurate.
"All I think about when I'm taking my shot is it doesn't have to be the hardest shot but it has to be accurate and it has to be quick so you don't show the goalie where you're about to shoot the puck," said Silfverberg. "That's what I'm trying to focus on in practice is skate in and not have a hard shot but have a quick and accurate shot."
Of course, it was a week ago when The Captain himself said that kids should be studying the Silfverberg shot. So, what advice does he have for kids reading this?
"You can't get something for free, you have to work hard to get it. That's what I was doing as a kid. I took a lot of shots during summers," said Silfverberg. "That's what it is. You have to work hard to get what you want. There's no shortcuts."