|Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson celebrates his 39th birthday on Sunday, but you'd never know it judging by his demeanour around the dressing room and his play on the ice (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images).
Daniel Alfredsson hardly needs to be reminded about the impending milestone.
"It's close. It's coming up quick," the Ottawa Senators captain said with a knowing grin in reference to his 39th birthday, which arrives on Sunday.
Now in his 16th season in a Senators jersey, the National Hockey League's longest-serving captain remains this team's unquestioned leader. And make no mistake about it — Alfredsson still has plenty of game left. He's currently riding a four-game point streak, including a rocket of a slap shot for a third-period goal that ignited Monday's come-from-behind 4-2 triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"He definitely plays the game like a young man," Senators centre Jason Spezza said following the Senators' pre-game game skate in advance of tonight's matchup with the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). He's a great skater, so I think that makes him younger than he really is, I guess.
"We do know how old he is. He has been around a long time and he has played a lot of games (1,077). He's got a lot of veteran experience for us."
Added defenceman Erik Karlsson, a fellow Swede: "He's probably not the player he was five or six years ago. But for sure, he's still one of our best guys. He knows what he can do and what he can't do, and he hasn't lost any skill, obviously. He's still a high-end player and he's going to be that for however long he plays."
From the day fan balloting began for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game — set for Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place — there has been a huge groundswell of support to get Alfredsson the opportunity to play in front of the fans who still inspires chants of 'Al-fie, Al-fie' from the Sens Army faithful. Through three weeks of voting, Alfredsson rates third among all forwards (320,100), putting him in position to land a spot in the starting lineup.
Karlsson, for one, can't imagine an all-star game in Ottawa without the franchise's greatest player.
"It would be huge," said Karlsson. "He's such a big part of the community and this organization ... he's the face of it. I think it would be really, really odd if he's not there."
Alfredsson, who's 2010-11 season was cut short after 54 games by back woes that eventually required off-season surgery, is pleased with the way his game is coming along so far this season. Through 21 games, he's recorded 14 points, including six goals — a total which leaves him five short of the 400 plateau for his career.
"It's been getting better," said Alfredsson, who missed five games in early November while recovering from a concussion. "Since we got back from the western road trip, we've had a week of practice and I feel I'm starting to get my legs back to where I would like them to be. So it's going in the right direction."
Young in spirit? Absolutely, said Karlsson, who marvels at the way someone who's just seven years younger than his father, Jonas, can seem even more youthful.
"Alfie is the kind of guy who is always going to (relate to) everyone," said Karlsson, who Alfredsson invited into his home for a large chunk of the defenceman's rookie season in the NHL. "It doesn't matter if you're 19 or 25 or 30 ... he's a really, really, really special personality (to you). He's really good at adapting himself to people around him."
To vote for Alfredsson, Karlsson, Spezza, Milan Michalek and Sergei Gonchar on the NHL all-star fan ballot, log on to vote.nhl.com and support your Senators.
Around the boards
Defenceman Filip Kuba, who's missed the last three games with a left shoulder injury, has been placed on injured reserve. Head coach Paul MacLean expects the veteran blueliner to be sidelined for "three or four weeks" ... The Capitals are only 3-7-0 in their last 10 games, have changed coaches and slipped seven points behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers. But don't expect the Senators, who fell 3-2 in Washington just five days ago, to take the skidding Caps lightly ... "They've beaten us twice (this season)," said MacLean. "Even thought the games have been good in there (Ottawa also lost 2-1 in Washington back on Oct. 15), we have to find a way to be one better than them tonight. They're a big concern for us" ... The Senators will charter to New Jersey immediatly after tonight's game in advance of Thursday's matchup with the Devils at the Prudential Center (7 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200) ... Fewer than 2,000 tickets remain for tonight's contest against the Capitals.