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Ailing back forces Senators captain out of lineup

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was hopeful the NHL all-star break would help ease the pain in his lower back, but he'll require a lengthier absence to correct it (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

The leader inside Daniel Alfredsson wouldn't let him surrender to the pain.

Until today, that is.

With a lower back injury showing no signs of improvement, the Ottawa Senators captain finally decided to pull himself from the team's lineup for tonight's game against the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome (9:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). He'll be sidelined indefinitely, with Alfredsson hopeful his recovery period won't last longer than two weeks.

"I’m hoping a couple of weeks, no more," Alfredsson told reporters after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier this afternoon at the Saddledome. "That’s my goal. If everything goes well, I should be back in that time."

Alfredsson and the Senators had been hopeful the National Hockey League's five-day all-star break might help his cause but the captain knew it would take much more than that after struggling through Ottawa's last two games.

"I’ve been having a little bit of a problem the last few weeks especially," he said. "I was hoping the all-star break was going to help me to go forward but the last two games, it hasn’t been as good as I would have liked (and I need) to just take some time here and strengthen everything back up so I can get back to being healthy enough to finish off the year.

"It’s frustrating, especially with the (tough) times we’re going through. You want to be out there on the ice but at the same time, it’s a decision that I probably could have taken a few weeks ago. I definitely wanted to try to go as far as I could but at this point, I have to look after it and not make it a long-term problem."

Senators head coach Cory Clouston agreed it's an ailment that couldn't be allowed to linger any longer.

"It’s the only thing we can do right now," he said of shutting down Alfredsson for the time being. "It’s to the point where we don’t want to put him in jeopardy as far as health. He’s not able to do the things he wants to be able to do right now, and it’s getting worse and worse. It’s been awhile since he’s been anywhere near 100 per cent.

It just shows the type of player he is, (that) he wants to help the team out. He understands the situation we’re in, but right now he’s got to come out for awhile."

Needless to say, there is no underestating the size of the hole created by Alfredsson's absence form the lineup. With Jesse Winchester (left knee) also sidelined, Jarkko Ruutu and Binghamton callup Bobby Butler are being inserted into the lineup against the Flames.

"He's our leader, he’s our captain, he plays in so many positions and (fills) so many roles," said Clouston. "Credit to him, he’s showed a lot of character and tried to battle through it. But he’s to the point where he’s just working and trying to battle through too much right now. It’s been a long time since he’s been 100 per cent."

Around the boards

Rookie Robin Lehner has been tabbed to make the start in goal against the red-hot Flames, who are 7-0-1 in their last eight outings. Clouston's aim is to get both Brian Elliott, who performed solidly in Monday's 4-2 loss in Vancouver, and Lehner into top form for the season's final stretch run. "We need one of those guys to step up over the next little while and until they do that, we're going to basically alternate them," he said. "Between games, they'll work on the little areas that need to be worked on with Rick (Wamsley, the Sens' goaltending coach)" ... Defenceman Matt Carkner returns to the lineup tonight, with Brian Lee sitting out as a scratch along with Binghamton callup Jim O'Brien.

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