OTTAWA (AP) -Whenever Daniel Alfredsson has been out with an injury in the past, the Ottawa Senators have struggled.
It's a situation they'll need to remedy if forced to wait a little longer for him to return after knee surgery.
Alfredsson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last Friday to remove a bone chip and was expected to be out two weeks. However, despite making a quicker-than-expected return to the ice for practice this week, he is questionable for a pair of weekend games.
"It feels pretty good," the 35-year-old said following the Senators' skate Thursday, where he was upgraded from a gray non-contact shirt to a white jersey that could see him return to spot on the right wing alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.
Whether he was good enough to play Friday night against Phoenix or Saturday against Boston, however, Alfredsson couldn't say.
"We'll see. I'm not going to commit to anything today," he said. "We'll see how it is tomorrow again. I'll skate tomorrow morning and go from there."
Even if the Swede isn't back right away, having him on the ice for practice already is good news for the Senators, given their lack of success without him in the lineup. Although Alfredsson disputes the impact his absence has on the Senators, the numbers over the past two seasons don't lie.
"I don't know if (the team) is that different," he said. "If you go back to our record last year, I missed a lot of time when we weren't playing all that well anyway, so I think that has something to do with it and I believe that sometimes (the media) makes a bigger deal out of it than it maybe is.
"I think in the short term, anybody is replaceable and I don't think I'm different. I think it's more of a coincidence than anything."
After a 3-2 loss to Detroit last Saturday, Ottawa has just three wins in the last 15 games without Alfredsson, including two playoff losses.
"He's obviously our leader, so it's a big gap to fill," said second-year forward Nick Foligno, who will attempt to take up the slack on Ottawa's top line if Alfredsson's not ready to go. "I think it's just maybe that we have guys that want to do too much when he's out that when they step into his role they have to play the way he does instead of just playing the way they know how."
Senators coach Craig Hartsburg has ruled out bringing Alfredsson back early if he can only play a limited role.
"If a player's ready to play, he's able to play in any situation," Hartsburg said. "It's important that the team has to take over when there's a good player out of the lineup. A team that's firing on all cylinders, doing the little things right, you should be able to get by for a short period of time without a top player."