To help celebrate NBC Rivalry Night, NHL.com will look at a rivalry within the rivalry of the featured game on Wednesday nights. For this week, we are trying to determine which franchise icon starting over in a new spot -- the Detroit Red Wings' Daniel Alfredsson and the Philadelphia Flyers' Vincent Lecavalier -- has had the biggest impact on his new team.
For most of the past decade, the first name thought of when the Ottawa Senators were mentioned was Daniel Alfredsson. The same went for the Tampa Bay Lightning; Vincent Lecavalier was the face of that franchise.
But this summer Alfredsson and Lecavalier packed up and moved to new addresses, stunning their respective fan bases.
Lecavalier was the first to go when the Lightning used a compliance buyout to get out from the remaining seven years of the 11-year, $85 million contract he signed in July 2008. Days later he signed a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Alfredsson was an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the common perception was if he was going to keep playing at age 40, it would be only with the Senators. Instead contract talks broke down, and Alfredsson ended up signing a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings.
Each has had positive and negative moments this season, from injuries to tough losses and emotional returns to their former homes. In fact, Lecavalier will sit out Wednesday due to back spasms, while Alfredsson has been battling a groin injury. Still, each has had a major impact at his new address.
Heading into Wednesday, has one player stood out more than the other? Let's break it down and reach a conclusion:
After 17 seasons with the Senators, including the final 13 as captain, Alfredsson's departure from Ottawa was the shocker of the summer. A 1994 sixth-round pick (No. 133), Alfredsson's name dominates the top of the Senators record book; he's the club's all-time leader in games played (1,178), goals (426), assists (682) and points (1,108), among other categories. The Senators made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 14 times in his final 16 seasons, including two trips to the Eastern Conference Final and a spot in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.
Alfredsson's arrival in Detroit started slowly; he had one point in his first four games. His breakout came Oct. 12 against the Flyers when he had assists on the Red Wings' first three goals en route to a 5-2 victory. His first goal came in his seventh game, and he followed that with three assists in the next game. He had goals in back-to-back games Oct. 26 and Oct. 30 but had three points in the next six games. He had an assist Nov. 12 against the Winnipeg Jets but sat out the next two weeks with the groin injury.
Since returning, Alfredsson has been on a tear, with multiple-point games in three of his past four. He had a goal and an assist Nov. 24 against the Buffalo Sabres, then had his first two-goal game with the Red Wings on Nov. 29 against the New York Islanders. On Dec. 1 he had a goal and an assist against the Senators. It was his first game back in Ottawa and featured a pregame video tribute and lengthy standing ovation from the Canadian Tire Centre crowd.
After going 1-2-2 in Alfredsson's absence, the Red Wings enter their game Wednesday against the Flyers with wins in four straight, tying their longest streak of the season.
Alfredsson's seven goals and 21 points are tied for third on the Red Wings.
Famously dubbed the "Michael Jordan of Hockey" when the Lightning made him the first pick of the 1998 NHL Draft, Lecavalier never quite reached that level but did pretty well in 14 seasons with Tampa Bay. He's the franchise leader in games played (1,037) and goals (383), and is second in assists (491) and points (874). He helped the Lightning win the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Lecavalier was a beacon in the Flyers' early-season struggles. Centering the second line in the season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs he set up Flyers' first goal of the season. Three nights later he scored the team's only goal in a loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
He had to weather a coaching change three games into the season when Peter Laviolette, one of the reasons he came to Philadelphia, was fired and replaced by assistant coach Craig Berube. A week after the coaching change Lecavalier sustained a lower-body injury in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes and missed three games.
In his second game back from the injury, Lecavalier had a hat trick Oct. 26 against the New York Islanders. He had a goal the next game against the Anaheim Ducks but had to miss a game Nov. 2 due to facial injuries sustained in a fight during a game Nov. 1 against the Washington Capitals.
Lecavalier scored his sixth goal of the season Nov. 9 against the Edmonton Oilers and had another Nov. 12 against the Senators. That started the Flyers' current strong run; they enter their game against the Red Wings with eight wins in their past 11 games.
Lecavalier has four goals in that span, including one Nov. 27 in his return to Tampa Bay. He leads the Flyers with nine goals, and his 14 points are third. Just as important, Philadelphia is 1-4-0 in the five games he's missed.
When healthy, Alfredsson has been a solid complementary part to the Red Wings' top-line stars, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. But the case could be made that Lecavalier has been the Flyers' best skater. He not only has scored big goals, he's shown his willingness to adapt to different situations, including a shift to right wing to get him and Flyers captain Claude Giroux on the ice together at even strength.
In addition, Lecavalier also quickly has emerged as a leader and a strong voice in a Philadelphia locker room that skews young.
Alfredsson hasn't had to step into any leadership roles in Detroit, but with Zetterberg out at least two weeks with a back problem and Datsyuk out indefinitely with a concussion, the Red Wings will need him to take a bigger role in the offense.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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