Alfredsson 'very close' to return
Captain should know by game time whether he'll face off against Coyotes
Imagine what the Phoenix Coyotes might think if the Ottawa Senators captain does indeed suit up for their Friday night matchup at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
It just might happen. Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg said this morning that Alfredsson is "very close" to returning to the team's lineup, just a week after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone chip from his right knee. A final decision is expected before tonight's pre-game warm-up.
Alfredsson's biggest concern is the fact the Senators are slated for back-to-back games tonight against Phoenix and Saturday vs. the Boston Bruins, also at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). He said he'll make the call on tonight's game after consulting with Hartsburg and the team's training staff.
"Then we’ll see, with the back-to-back games, what the best course of action will be," he said. "Physically, I feel pretty good, but there’s another step from practice to games. We’ll see if I play tonight or (if not), probably definitely tomorrow, anyway.
"(The back-to-back games are) a little bit of a concern in the sense that I’m probably not as strong as I would be if I didn’t have surgery. But that’s why we skated it pretty hard, to see how (the knee) would react. I’m going to tell them how I feel and how I felt the last few days and we’ll make a decision (based) on that. I’ll probably know before I head out of here this afternoon what it will be."
Hartsburg said it's largely up to Alfredsson to say whether he's good to go.
"He’s close, very close (to returning)," said Hartsburg. "I think it’s about him making sure he’s comfortable and we’ll know tonight. I don’t think it’s 100 per cent in my mind one way or another but come game time tonight, we’ll know for sure.
"In my mind, after watching him skate, I don’t have a problem putting him in the lineup if he tells me he’s ready. But until he says that, I can’t tell you he’s playing for sure."
Even Alfredsson is surprised he might be back in the lineup after missing just one game, last Saturday's 3-2 home-ice loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
"It’s really encouraging," he said. "I didn’t know what to expect but I thought I might start skating on Thursday or Friday of this week. It’s gone really well, which is a lot of fun for me and it’s been fun practising with the guys. I’m going to try to get back in the game as quick as possible."
If Alfredsson doesn't play, Nick Foligno would likely take his spot on the Senators' No. 1 line alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.
Martin Gerber makes his third start of the season in goal tonight. Fewer than 500 tickets remain available for the game.
It's Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night
The game against the Coyotes will also be the Senators' second annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, with special one-of-a-kind autographed ties ($75), scarves ($50), hats ($35) and Reflections on a Hockey Season photo books ($50) being sold by Senators wives and girlfriends, along with team president/CEO Roy Mlakar and COO Cyril Leeder, at Gates 1 and 2 before the game. Mlakar, Leeder, general manager Bryan Murray and the team's coaching staff will wear lavender Hockey Fights Cancer ties during the game. Hockey Fights Cancer is joint charitable initiative founded in December 1998 by the National Hockey League and NHL Players' Association.