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Alfredsson back to face Panthers

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The captain is returning to help steer the Ottawa Senators’ ship back on course.

After missing two games – both Senators losses – on the weekend with a sore hip flexor, Daniel Alfredsson is good to go for Tuesday night’s matchup with the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla. (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

“It felt good this morning. I’m looking forward tonight,” Alfredsson said after the team’s pre-game workout at BankAtlantic Center. “I tried skating in (Philadelphia) and I could feel (pain). The last few days, I’ve been taking it easier and it felt good this morning.

“I’ll probably be a little bit cautious because of the ice here, but it was a good test this morning and it felt good.”

That’s certainly welcome news for a Senators team that scored only one goal in two weekend losses, to Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0) and Philadelphia Flyers (6-1). Senators head coach John Paddock said the impact of Alfredsson’s return should be more than obvious, and that his absence further underscores his all-around contributions.

“It’s unfortunate people get more of a glimpse of a Hart Trophy candidate when he’s out than when he’s in,” said Paddock. “He does everything and he adds a high level of everything. There’s more potential to score, there’s a little bit more consistent penalty killing.”

That being said, Paddock suggested the team’s overall level of play has to improve. The Senators have dropped four of five since beating the Detroit Red Wings, the National Hockey League’s top team, on Jan. 12.

“The fact is, our overall game isn’t as bad as it was (during a seven-game losing streak before Christmas) and there are different reasons for it now,” he said. “But obviously, we have to play better.

“For whatever reason, there’s a little bit of urgency missing … I understand it’s the time of year and looking at the three-day (all-star) break. But I don’t understand where the urgency is when No. 11 and No. 15 aren’t playing. That should create more urgency to make up for that stuff.”

The Senators have dropped to 19th in the league in goals against, and Alfredsson said that should be the area of highest concern at the moment.

“I think the defensive side of the puck is where we have to be better,” he said. “Don’t give up the easy goals. That’s going to be a focus down the stretch, too.”

Lineup notes

Ray Emery gets the start in goal against the Panthers… Forward Brian McGrattan remains out with a shoulder injury … Injured forward Dany Heatley (shoulder) skated on his own for 15 minutes after the team’s practice.

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