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Alfredsson: 'I'm still hoping that I can come back'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson is still struggling to conquer lower back pain but remains determined to see action before the current season reaches its end (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

ATLANTA — Daniel Alfredsson openly admits that it is anything but a certainty.

But the Ottawa Senators captain sees the wealth of young talent injecting enthusiasm into the lineup and the mentoring instinct bubbles to the surface. Yes, Alfredsson says, he'd love to be back on the ice with them, offering guidance the way a veteran of his stature can.

Now it's just a matter of getting his wonky back to co-operate on the matter.

"I’m still hoping that I can come back," the Senators captain said earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "It's not for certain, but my goal is to come back and play this year."

Alfredsson, who last saw action on Feb. 7 in Vancouver, has been sidelined for nearly a month with pain in his lower back. He said today it is affecting a nerve in his right leg, which is limiting the thrust he needs to perform certain movements on the ice.

"(Moving) straight ahead, I’m fine," said Alfredsson, who tried skating on his own Sunday and Monday. "I can skate and feel strong. I don't feel like my body is falling apart ... With my back, the biggest thing for me is the power in my right leg, probably because of the nerve. I feel if I can get around that and fix that problem, I should be able to play without a problem."

While he's had back issues in previous season — and was able to recover in a reasonable amount of time with treatment — Alfredsson admitted the current ailment is unlike any before it.

"This year, when I’m getting some tingling down my leg and losing strength in my leg because of it ... I haven’t had that before," he said. "So I’m trying to get it to calm down and it hasn’t gone as quick as I would have liked."

Surgery, he suggested, "is a possibility, but we’re going to try everything we can to avoid that. I definitely hope that it doesn’t get to that."

Senators head coach Cory Clouston senses his captain's frustration over his prolonged absence and agreed that his presence is missed on a roster now dotted with a number of younger prospects hoping to make their mark.

"Any game he can get back into (now) is important," Clouston said before heading off to Atlanta, where the Senators face the Thrashers on Thursday night (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "He wants to help the team win, he wants to get involved and be a part of the team moving forward. And it’s tough for him. It’s been a difficult season with the injuries and the frustration level has been high for him, but he’s eager to get back.

"It’s just his presence (that matters). When he does say something, the players always pay attention. He’s got that experience and he’s been through so many ups and downs, both as a team and as an individual. I just think he can help some of the younger guys and the sooner we get him back, the more he can help. It’s tough to help when you’re not on the ice with the guys ... he wants to get himself back into the mix of things."

Alfredsson is determined to return better than ever next season.

"I’m pretty sure at the end of the year, after I take some more time and do some more tests, that I’ll have a really good picture of the situation and we’ll be going forward," he said. "This has been a very frustrating year, where I haven’t been as good as I should be. I’m not just blaming that on my back, but I just haven’t performed at a level I think I should and I haven’t been able to help the players around me be as good as they can be.

"I believe if I can come back (this season) and feel good, knowing where I stand going into the summer, that would mean a lot to me ... In terms of going through the whole training camp (next fall) wondering if it’s going to come back or not. I want to come back next year, not having anything that bothers me and have a good year."

Around the boards

It's been a whirlwind of a week for goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who's been dealt from the Anaheim Ducks to the Tampa Bay Lightning, then barely settled into the Florida sunshine before being scooped off the waiver wire by the Senators on Monday. The story got a little wilder when his goaltending equipment didn't arrive until after practice today. In the meantime, he's cobbled together a set of spare gear, some of it used by Matthew Spezza when he's called upon as a fill-in practice netminder. "I’ve been all over the map," said McElhinney, who dressed as the backup to Craig Anderson during Tuesday night's 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins. "My equipment didn’t show up when I first got here, but that’s all part of being traded and being picked up on waivers." ... With his team facing back-to-back games Thursday in Atlanta and Friday at home against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200), Clouston acknowledged it's possible McElhinney could make his Sens debut this week. And game action is what the native of London, Ont., is hoping to get in Ottawa. "I’d like to get into some games and just establish (myself) playing well, feeling confident and getting a good feel for the group," he said. "It’s been a hectic week. Hopefully, this can be a home for the rest of the year and years to come."

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