PITTSBURGH -- If the Ottawa Senators are at all worried about the possibility of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday being the final game of their captain's career, they aren't talking as if they are.
"He was dangling me in 'keep away' all morning," defenseman Marc Methot said, referring to the common morning-skate drill. "So if you ask me, he's got a couple years left under his belt."
The Senators kept a loose, upbeat posture throughout the morning skate and after it Friday, but a loss in Game 5 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) would have serious ramifications. Not only would it eliminate Ottawa from the Stanley Cup Playoffs and end its season, it could end the career of the franchise's longtime captain.
A 40-year-old, 17-season veteran, Alfredsson has not committed to playing beyond this season. When he was spotted picking up the puck at the end of a 7-3 loss in Game 4 at Scotiabank Place on Wednesday, it fueled speculation even more that he might be on the verge of retiring.
Alfredsson has made no public declarations on the topic. And throughout the Senators locker room, players expressed hope he will return next season. The team's career leader in virtually every relevant category, Alfredsson also is its leader in points during this year's playoffs with 10 in nine games. He was Ottawa's third-leading scorer during the regular season.
"He looks great out there, and he still has a passion and fire for this game," Methot said. "He'd a be a great asset to our team to have back."
Karlsson said, "He's our captain, he's been here the longest and a lot of him is in us. And in a way we've got to help him the way he's helped us. It goes around. Right now he's focused on playing his best game so far, and so does every other player in here."
Alfredsson created a stir when he said, "Probably not... It doesn't look too good," to a question after Game 4 about whether the Senators could come back to win three consecutive games against the Penguins.
A respected leader known throughout the League for his gentlemanly demeanor, Alfredsson's teammates stood behind him. Many players supported Alfredsson when asked about his comments Thursday, and that didn't change with the knowledge it perhaps could be his final game Friday.
"I think we beat it to a dead horse a little bit," Jason Spezza, who has played more games with Alfredsson than any forward, said Friday when asked about Alfredsson's comments. "We know it's a big game, and [Alfredsson] knows it's a big game, and I would never question anything he had to say. His intentions are to play the best game of the series -- and we don't doubt that."