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Alfredsson 'in good spirits' after return to Ottawa

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was forced out of Game 2 by an elbow to the head by the Rangers' Carl Hagelin. His status for the next game of the series, set for Monday, still remains up in their air (Getty Images).

Don't rule out the captain just yet.

While a final verdict has yet to be rendered, Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean said today there is nothing new to report in terms of Daniel Alfredsson's status for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final against the New York Rangers, set for Monday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

Alfredsson, who was forced out of Saturday's Game 2 of the series after taking an elbow to the head from the Blueshirts' Carl Hagelin midway through the second period, is still being evaluated by team doctors. Meanwhile, Hagelin learned Sunday night he's been suspended for three games for the "reckless" elbow by Brendan Shanahan, the National Hockey League's head disciplinarian.

While the Senators have plenty of potential lineup replacements on hand, MacLean said he plans to wait until Monday before deciding whether the Senators will have to forge on without their leader in the pivotal third game of the series, which is all square at 1-1 after Ottawa's 3-2 overtime triumph on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"We haven’t made any final decisions, because we’re going to wait and see what Alfie says tomorrow," MacLean said following an optional team practice at Scotiabank Place earlier this afternoon. "He was feeling good today. He’ll be further evaluated and we’ll see what he’s like tomorrow."

Indeed, forward Nick Foligno said Alfredsson "seemed in good spirits" in the wake of Saturday's emotional triumph, in which the team pulled together without its captain to score a massive victory. Foligno tied the game late in the third period, then Chris Neil won it at 1:17 of overtime. Alfredsson was in the Senators' dressing room waiting to share the big moment with his teammates.

"He was around," said Foligno. "He’s a proud guy, too, and he doesn’t like to show that anything’s wrong. He’s a great captain that way and he wanted to be around us as much as possible. I think he was just so excited about the way we won yesterday and he wanted to be a part of it. We’re obviously concerned. We don’t like the way (he) went down and we hope he’s back and ready to go. It was just nice to have him in the locker room supporting us after that big win."

Added centre Jason Spezza: "You never like seeing your captain down and Alfie doesn’t stay down unless he’s hurt. It was a scary moment for us to see him stay down. He’ll be evaluated today and probably resting today. We’ll see where it goes and the severity of the injury."

It might be said Saturday's victory was all about "the family," as this team has come to call itself — it's emblazoned on playoff-themed T-shirts the players are wearing — and the way the group pulls together as one. Blueliner Matt Carkner and centre Zenon Konopka were late additions to the lineup and both provided a spark with their physical play. When Carkner was ejected after a fight with the Rangers' Brian Boyle in the first period — he was later hit with a one-game suspension for being classified as an "aggressor" according the league rules — his teammates killed off a five-minute major and found a way to get a crucial win.

"We wanted to be more physical as a group," said Neil, whose goal was the first playoff game-winner of his career. "That’s what it takes to win in the playoffs. We came out, we set the tone and it paid off for us ... That’s what you need in playoffs. You’ve got to play tough out there and we did that. It wasn’t Matt himself, the whole team did it."

The Senators believe they'll need to raise the bar in that area even more as the series progresses.

"First-round playoff hockey is physical," said MacLean. "We weren’t as physical in the first game as we needed to be. We were more physical in the second game and we need to be more physical again in the third game."

Added Neil: "Every game, you’ve got to ramp up. The first game is feeling things out and we weren’t satisfied with (the level of) our physicality. Putting Carks and Zenon in definitely helped. Those are two physical guys out there and I think they set the tone for us."

With the intensity growing, the Senators took a step back today, most of them electing for rest rather than hitting the ice. Spezza, for one, believes it's a necessary thing during the grind of the post-season.

"That’s playoffs," he said. "You lose a game and you’re exhausted and demoralized. The next day, you come back and you’re refreshed and ready to go and trying to get a win. Those are the highs and lows of the playoffs and that’s what you probably learn over the years, not to ride the emotional rollercoaster. Just stay even keeled and stay in the moment. Rest when you get a chance to rest and be ready to go when the games are on."

Around the boards

Senators prospect Jakob Silfverberg will have to wait at least a few more days to bring Brynas IF its first Swedish Elitserien championship since 1999. Despite Silfverberg's two first-period power-play goals, Skelleftea staved off elimination in the league final with a 4-3 overtime triumph Sunday at Brynas' home rink in Gavle. Brynas still leads the best-of-seven series 3-1, with Game 5 set for Tuesday at Skelleftea ... The Binghamton Senators handed out their season-ending awards before their season finale Saturday at home against the Norfolk Admirals. Among the winners: Pat Cannone, top defensive forward; Eric Gryba, top defenceman; Mark Borowiecki, rookie of the year, and goaltender Mike McKenna, man of the year and 7th Player Award, which is voted on by the team's players ... Fewer than 250 tickets remain for Monday's Game 3 against the Rangers at Scotiabank Place.

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