DETROIT – Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss will emerge from the thickening white smoke at the Zamboni end of the rink tonight as public address announcer Erich Freiny enthusiastically introduces the two newcomers to a jam-packed crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
Collectively, Alfredsson and Weiss have played 1,960 regular-season and playoff games with Ottawa and Florida, respectively. But the pair officially begins their Red Wings careers with tonight’s season-opener.
Alfredsson played 17 seasons with the Senators and was their captain for the last 13 campaigns, so tonight’s meaning hasn’t fully sunk in yet for the perennial All-Star forward.
“I don't know if I had a moment where it's like, ‘Now I am one.’ I'm in a process here of getting used to everything, the guys, the room,” said Alfredsson who is getting over a groin injury that limited him to two preseason games. “Played my first exhibition game at home last week, can't say I feel any different. Feel like you're part of the team. This is a great organization, it's fun to be here.”
The assimilation process for Alfredsson has been helped by having fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Joakim Andersson, Mikael Samuelsson and Johan Franzen in the locker room.
“When you're on the ice you don't really notice it,” he said. “It's when you watch video in the coaches room or you see highlight of yourself in a different jersey, it feels different, but overall the guys have been great in the room and I'm excited to get started tonight.”
The Red Wings open the season against new Atlantic Division rival Buffalo, the same franchise that Alfredsson opened up against 18 years ago this week at the Ottawa Civic Centre.
He collected his first NHL point on Oct. 7, 1995, assisting on Michel Picard’s goal on Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek in the Senators’ 3-1 loss.
“This is like a new start and it's at home against Buffalo. It's fitting,” Alfredsson said.
Nerves will definitely be a part of tonight’s pre-game for Weiss, who said his parents are making the drive in from suburban Toronto to be at the game.
“Whether it's Game 1 or Game 70, anytime you come to the rink and you're playing a National Hockey League game the butterflies are going, you're excited to play,” Weiss said. “Last night was tough getting to sleep. It's going to be a long day today, sitting around waiting for it to get started.”
Along with Franzen, Weiss and Alfredsson make-up a new second line that the Wings hope can become an offensive compliment to Pavel Datsyuk’s line.
“I think the sky's the limit for us,” Weiss said. “We had two periods to play together but I think we figured it out in those 40 minutes. We just got to go out and play and not worry about scoring goals, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Alfredsson and Weiss will also help out on the power play. Alfredsson will man the right point on the first unit with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, and Kronwall. Weiss is on the second unit with Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary.
But it’s the 5-on-5 play of the Wings’ second line that intrigues coach Mike Babcock.
“It has the makings of a real good line,” the Wings’ coach said. “Obviously, Mule’s the key. He can be a dominant player. We’ve got to get him going every time, because if he goes every day, it makes it easier for Alfie and Weiss. That’s an important group for us. Obviously if we have 1A and 1B instead of 1 and 2, it makes it easier for us to run our bench.”
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