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Alfredsson pointing toward a healthy return

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson speaks with the media today before leaving Scotiabank Place for the off-season. Alfredsson's season was cut short by a back injury, but he's confident he'll be good to go come training camp in September (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).
Daniel Alfredsson can't say for sure what kind of team will emerge from Ottawa Senators training camp next fall.

But the Senators captain is confident he can still play a significant role in its direction.

"I understand there are going to be questions about that, but I don't have them," Alfredsson said today when asked if it's possible his current back woes could put an early end to his illustrious 15-year career in the nation's capital. "I still feel my physique is good enough that I can get to where I want to be physically. I have no problem seeing that happen and I don't think my health is that bad.

"With my back this year and the sports hernia (which required off-season surgery) last year, it's been a tough couple of years to stay consistent. If I can back to being healthy, for sure I will be (a part of it)."

Lower-back pain, combined with a nerve issue that affected the power in his right leg, forced Alfredsson to the sidelines on Feb. 7. While he'd hoped to return before season's end, the 38-year-old native of Goteborg, Sweden, never saw game action again. He wound up only playing 54 games this season, the fewest of his career. His assist (17) and point (31) totals were also career lows for him.

Alfredsson remains hopeful he can avoid surgery for a second straight off-season.

"Talking to the doctors, time is what I need," he said. "I'll rest and rehab for the rest of the month. I'll know better by then (if I need surgery), but I'm optimistic. I'm reluctant to have it at this stage, given where I am and how I feel.

"Compared to early February, I feel a lot better now. Still not great, but it's going in the right direction. Any time you're dealing with a nerve, you need time."

While he's been away from the ice, Alfredsson has paid close attention to the change in his team's direction over the last few months, though he admitted it's still much too soon to suggest how it will translate into next season.

"The draft is going to have a big say in what the team looks like next year," said Alfredsson. "I think what we saw down the stretch here shows that the depth in our organization is in great shape. The way our goaltenders played, especially Craig (Anderson), is great to see and we'll have him back next year.

"It's hard to say what we'll look like and I don't think we'll have the same expectations (to deal with) that we've had the last few years. We're in a different place. But having said that, we have some veterans that are coming back and, hopefully, we can make this process a lot quicker."

Senators general manager Bryan Murray doesn't doubt that his captain will have a significant hand in what transpires for the team going forward.

"I've talked to Alfie and he wants to come back," said Murray. "I assume that he'll be able to play. If I know him and he's in our lineup, he's a pretty darned good hockey player. He will continue to be that. Will he be what he was five years ago? Maybe not quite. But that still will be good enough."

Senators quartet ready to take on world

Four Senators players — Jason Spezza (Canada), Milan Michalek (Czech Republic), Ryan Shannon (United States) and Stéphane Da Costa (France) — have accepted invites to represent their respective countries at the IIHF 2011 World Hockey Championship, which begins April 29 in Slovakia.

However, defenceman Erik Karlsson says he isn't sure yet whether he'll represent Sweden for a second straight year at the global tournament, to be played in Bratislava and Kosice.

"It's going to be a last-minute decision," said Karlsson, who suffered a 25-stitch laceration on his calf on March 31 and missed the final four games of the Senators' season. "I'll see how it feels and if I don't think I can go there and do my best, if I don't think I can go there and be the best on our team, I might not go.

"We'll see. If I'm going there, I want to be 100 per cent and be the best I can be."

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