The captain is back in the lineup.
So is goaltender Ray Emery.
Now the Ottawa Senators aim to get back to their winning ways against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night at Nassau Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).
On paper, at least, the Isles might seem to be the perfect tonic to cure the Senators’ three-game losing streak. Ottawa swept all eight games with the Islanders over the past two seasons and, despite its recent skid, still owns the National Hockey League’s best record (16-5-1).
But head coach John Paddock and his players know better than to assume the team with the best record always wins.
“On Saturday night in the National Hockey League, every lower-placed team won the hockey game. Every game,” said Paddock after the Senators’ pre-game skate Wednesday morning.
“That’s a big statement about parity in the league … The National Hockey League has wanted this and created this in every way, from a salary cap and everything else, and it’s there.
“We think we’re a real good team, we know we’re a pretty good team and we have high expectations. But if we’re off just a small margin, we don’t win any hockey games, just like any other team in the league. It’s pretty simple.
“We got off to a great start and we’ll maintain where we’re at, but there’s nothing easy about it.”
Given all of the above, the Senators’ dominance over the Isles – which actually stretches back more than 10 seasons – seems beyond odd and almost defies explanation.
“There’s no way to describe it,” said Paddock. “We’ve had a good team and they’ve had a real competitive team, especially last year under Teddy (coach Nolan).
“I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to describe why certain teams have dominance over others and the next team can’t beat them.”
Emery makes his fifth start of the season tonight, while Alfredsson returns to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a pulled groin.
The Senators are back home Thursday to face the Nashville Predators (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) at Scotiabank Place. About 500 tickets remain for the game.
Just 200 tickets are left for Saturday’s matinee against the New York Rangers (2 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).