DETROIT – With training camp more than two weeks away, veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson has a big decision to make regarding his playing career.
Recovering from a back injury that limited his effectiveness during the final month of the regular season, and sidelined him for two games of the Red Wings’ playoff series with Boston, Alfredsson is still undecided about his NHL future.
“If I would start this season as I did last year I would have signed already,” the 18-season veteran said Wednesday. “I had some issues with my back throughout the year, but nothing serious until the end when I started getting some tingling in the nerve down the right leg. That’s what worries me more than anything.”
Alfredsson had surgery for a similar back problem three years ago. The surgery relieved the pain, but this time pain hasn’t been an issue, he said.
“It’s the nerve that goes from L5 (disc) and shoots down side of the right leg and calf,” Alfredsson said. “I haven’t experienced a lot of pain with it. It’s been more with numbness and losing strength in the right leg, which is why you need to put the repetition in to make sure you hold up.”
The 41-year-old skated during the summer in Sweden and returned to Detroit last week, where he has been participating in the captain’s skates twice now with teammates and other NHL and AHL players from the Detroit area at Joe Louis Arena.
Other than a slight setback while skating in Sweden, the nerve hasn’t been problematic.
“I just have to make sure that when you do it every day for a couple of weeks … we’ll see how it feels,” Alfredsson said. “We’ll go from there and make sure it holds up and it’s not just feeling good for a little bit and then you’re in and out all year long. That’s not what anybody wants.
“I would love to play, there’s no question, but at the same time you have to listen to your body.”
Last season, Alfredsson led all Red Wings’ forwards in scoring, producing 18 goals and 49 points in 68 games. The former Ottawa Senators’ captain, and five-time Olympian, has compiled 444 goals and 1,157 points in 1,246 NHL games.
“Every day it’s been progressing good,” Alfredsson said. “As we push more and more it’s going to be more telling. I had to back off a couple of times this summer in terms of workouts and whatnot. As of now it feels OK.”
With a logjam of forwards heading to training camp, the one thing the Red Wings can’t afford is for Alfredsson to play a limited role on a team immersed in a youth movement.
“We don’t want a part-time player, we want a full-time player, so guy’s got to be healthy, he’s got to be able to skate,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Alfie led our team in scoring last year … that’s how good a man he is and that’s how talented he is. But if you start the year injured and you’re 25, you got a chance to finish the year healthy. If you start the year injured and you’re Alfie’s age, the chance of you getting ready to go is a lot harder.”
Still, Babcock is encouraged that Alfredsson is skating this week.
“He’s planning on playing hockey,” Babcock said. “Now, when you get out there and get going … no one’s bumping into you yet, until training camp starts. You get whacked a few times and you seize up a couple of times. We’ll see what happens.”
Until then Alfredsson hopes to make a final decision on his career before the team heads to training camp in Traverse City.
“I’m hoping that I’ll know here within the next week or two weeks,” he said. “We’ll see.”