The Ottawa Senators' top line - and their offense in general - weren't the same without Daniel Alfredsson in the lineup.
They're just glad his absence only lasted one game.
With Alfredsson healthy and the top line clicking again, the Senators will look for a second straight win on Saturday, when the Boston Bruins complete a four-game season-opening road trip by visiting Canada's capital.
It was unclear how long Alfredsson would be out after undergoing knee surgery on Oct. 10, but the Senators' captain made a speedy recovery and played in Friday's 6-3 win over Phoenix, notching a pair of first-period assists as Ottawa seized a 3-0 lead.
Alfredsson's linemates, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, combined for three goals, one game after neither managed a point in a 3-2 loss to Detroit last Saturday - the contest Alfredsson missed after surgery.
The high-scoring Swede felt good after his return and expects to play again against the Bruins.
"I feel better now, I guess, than I did before even because I had a little bit of grinding in the knee that I don't feel now, so that's obviously a positive," Alfredsson said.
There's no question the Senators (2-1-1) are at their best with Alfredsson in the lineup. They have lost 12 of their last 15 games without him, and they've been among the NHL's top two in scoring each of the last three seasons - with Alfredsson among their leading scorers over that span.
"There's a reason why he's the captain, why he's an elite player in this league," Phoenix forward Olli Jokinen said. "He carries a lot of the load on that team and he leads by example."
Ottawa is hoping its high-flying offense will lead the club back to the top of the Eastern Conference. The Senators' run of four straight 100-point seasons ended in 2007-08, and they scored only five goals in four games while getting swept out of the playoffs in the first round by Pittsburgh.
The Bruins certainly contributed to Ottawa's misery. The teams split eight meetings last season, but Boston won four of the five matchups after New Year's Day, with goalie Tim Thomas allowing two total goals in his four starts - all victories.
Thomas is 9-5-2 with a 2.05 goals-against average in his career against the Senators.
Still, Boston has looked a bit vulnerable defensively this season. The Bruins (1-1-1) have allowed 11 goals in three games, including three in the final five minutes of the first period on Wednesday at Montreal. They fell 4-3 in a shootout.
"Obviously, the first period, that's not the start that we wanted," Boston's Patrice Bergeron said. "We never stopped battling and we came back in the game, and I think that's a big point, but we could have avoided going to overtime by playing well in the first period."
While the Bruins' defense has been a bit disappointing, their offense has perhaps exceeded expectations. Veteran Marc Savard has five goals, including two during the Bruins' comeback on Wednesday, while 22-year-old center David Krejci has two goals and two assists in three games.
Since the beginning of the 2006-07 season, Boston is 4-2-0 at Ottawa, with the six meetings perhaps carrying a bit of extra emotion. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and general manager Peter Chiarelli both came over before that season from the Senators, where Chiarelli had served as assistant GM.
Chara has two goals and three assists in his six visits to Scotiabank Place.