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Northeast: Alfredsson returns to lineup with a bang

by James Murphy
When Daniel Alfredsson went out with a separated shoulder back on Dec. 23, missing the next 11 games, the Ottawa Senators' captain was stuck in a 13-game goal-less drought.

Alfredsson has returned with a vengeance scoring, 4 goals and 2 assists in his first three games back. Alfredsson scored a goal and 2 assists in a 4-2 win over the Canadiens Saturday night and then had a natural hat trick against the Bruins in Ottawa's 5-1 win Monday before going pointless against the Blackhawks Tuesday.

"I didn't really expect anything," Alfredsson told the Senators' Web site. "I knew I felt good enough to play and I could help out and manage the puck, maybe more than we had in the previous games. To be able to get the points that I have in the last few games ... I don't think I expected that, but it's been great."

Ottawa General Manager Bryan Murray has noticed not only a rejuvenated Alfredsson, but the whole team playing with a jump since Alfie's return.

"You could just tell right away Saturday when he came back that there was more of a jump in their game," Murray told "He brings so much skill-wise, but also just his presence on and off the ice makes us such a better team. He's a leader."

Alfredsson's strong return to action also is a boon for the Swedish Olympic Team, which contemplated going into the 2010 Winter Games without the veteran forward.

Bruins hurtin' for certain -- The Bruins are a hurting team right now with Marc Savard (knee), Marco Sturm (leg), Andrew Ference (groin), Byron Bitz and Steve Begin (undisclosed) all out of the lineup Monday in Boston's  forgettable 5-1 loss to Ottawa. Coupled with the fact the Bruins are coming off a grueling, injury-riddled three-game trip out west, it is evident that the 98 man-games lost is taking its toll on the team.

The Bruins are 2-5-1 since the dramatic Winter Classic win over the Flyers on New Year's Day and are losing their grip on a playoff spot.

"Sure, we're banged up, but there's no excuse for that type of loss," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said of the humiliating loss to Ottawa Monday.

Goaltender Tim Thomas admitted he and the Bruins were tired against the Senators, but pointed out they also were a tired and beat-up team on that road trip and still picked up three of a possible six points, including a gritty 2-1 shootout win over San Jose last Thursday.

"We just didn't have the same level of compete [on Monday]," Thomas said. "Maybe we just couldn't find the same level of energy. We needed to try to find some way to get the win. We're playing against a division rival who's right on our footsteps. So not getting the two points obviously is bothersome."

Patrice Bergeron returned against the Senators after a two-week hiatus with a broken thumb.

"I'm wearing a splint and it's so big that sometimes I don't feel free moving my hands and stuff like that, so it's a little annoying but it's not an excuse," Bergeron said. "I have to make sure I adjust to it."

Kaleta looks to focus game -- Patrick Kaleta has played only three full games since suffering a concussion Dec. 16. But in those three games, the Buffalo native, known more for his physical game and antagonistic ways, has started to contribute offensively, scoring twice. Apparently, watching the game from the press box has made Kaleta realize he can contribute a more complete game.

"I can't be a person that goes out there and just runs around, I can't do that anymore," Kaleta told the Buffalo News. "I expect a lot more from myself. My teammates do and so do the coaches. I know I can do it and be a complete player. You get a couple of shifts here and there where you have to run around and bang, but I've got to keep focused on playing that total game. That's what I have to keep in my head."

Kaleta felt he was rounding out his game before he suffered that concussion in Ottawa last month. Now it's a matter of building off this recent play and moving on from the injury.

"I was playing really well, really skating and moving like I never had before," he said. "It's not about the goals either. It's about the overall play. I was feeling great, then I got hurt in Ottawa and it set me back. Same thing in St. Louis. I have to focus on putting that past me and focus on the type of game I was playing in New York and Montreal."

Breaking in with style -- Like any NHL player, Tyler Bozak didn't care how he got his first NHL goal as long as he got it. But after scoring a highlight reel goal for his first NHL goal, Bozak, unlike most NHLers, won't have to lie about it.

"The guys were joking with me, saying I don't have to lie to my kids," Bozak joked after notching a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win over the Flyers last Thursday. "When I'm a grandparent, I don't have to lie about my first goal. It's nice to get a nice one."

Linemate Phil Kessel was pretty impressed with the former University of Denver star signed as a free agent last year.

"What a goal," said Kessel who assisted on the play. "Highlight of the night. It's got to be. That was pretty special, especially to have that for your first goal. It was something else."

Bozak got another assist against the Predators Monday night in a 4-3 Leafs win and now has 1 goal and 4 assists in five NHL games.
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