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Alfredsson remains 'doubtful'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators might have to go one more night without their captain.

Daniel Alfredsson said Friday afternoon it remains doubtful whether he’ll suit up for Saturday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), the final stop on the Senators’ four-game western road swing.

“It’s been going slower than I thought it would, which is very frustrating,” Alfredsson said of his recovery from the back spasms that have kept him out of the Senators’ past two games, both losses to the San Jose Sharks (3-2 in overtime) and Los Angeles Kings (2-0). "I still have trouble moving really freely ... It's getting better, but not at the speed or rate I was hoping."

Alfredsson has been sidelined since taking a cross-check from Anaheim defenceman François Beauchemin during the third period of Monday’s 3-1 loss to the Ducks in the opener of this current road trip.

"I thought it would just be spasms and settle down in a couple of days and I'd be ready to go, but it hasn't been the case," he said.

The week hasn’t been a good one for the Senators, who have dropped all three games out west, gaining only a single point for the overtime loss to the Sharks. The highlight for the team has been the play of goaltender Martin Gerber, a standout against both the Sharks and Kings. Head coach/general manager Bryan Murray will reward Gerber one more time on Saturday night, giving the Swiss stopper his fifth straight start.

"Martin's played very well," said Murray. "As much as we haven't won for him, he's played really well. I'd be remiss if I didn't go back to him and let him have a chance to win a game here."

Added Alfredsson: "He's been unbelievable. It looks like he's aggressive in net, really challenging the shooter. He's been, without questiion, (our) best player the last two games."

Offence has been the Senators’ biggest concern lately, and Alfredsson’s absence hasn’t helped in that area. Ottawa is 1-5-1 in its last seven games and has been shut out three times during that stretch. The Senators have scored only nine goals in their last seven games, more than half of them in a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 1.

"The lack of confidence is so evident, and this is what happens," said Murray. "I told the guys in the meeting before practice that we've all gone through times in our careers with teams where, for whatever reason, you weren't very good. Usually, it had to do with how you felt about yourself and how your felt about your team. I think we're going through that right now, unfortunately, and there has to be a turning point and you start to build on that."

Murray put his team through a relaxed practice sesson today, hoping the mental break might help bring that turning point a little closer.

"We can all be angry about not scoring a goal (against the Kings), but that happens," he said. "That game's gone now. We can't do anything about it. So what we have to do now is play better, play more together and respect what we can do together.

"II think the guys understand that we believe in them. They've just got to start believing in themselves a little bit more now ... You just (need to) play hard. You play real simple and basic hockey and somehow or other, you scrape out a win, and that's what we have to do."

Around the boards

Forward Shean Donovan sat out today's practice because of illness, but Murray is hopeful he'll be available Saturday ... Only 3,800 tickets are still available for the Senators’ six remaining home games this season. Just 200 are left for their next appearance at Scotiabank Place, which comes Tuesday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m., Sens TV, Team 1200).

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