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Alfredsson, Sens determined to battle to the finish

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Captain Daniel Alfredsson believes it's important for the Senators to finish their season on a high note (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Daniel Alfredsson imagines he's probably been through tougher times with the Ottawa Senators.

Considering the captain's National Hockey League career began a couple of seasons before the Senators' ascent to full-fledged contender status, he's no doubt right. But in the midst of perhaps the most frustrating campaign of them all, it's a little difficult for Alfredsson to see the forest through the trees, so to speak.

"Memory is always fairly short," Alfredsson said following the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today in advance of tonight's contest with the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "This feels like the toughest stretch I've ever been through, but I'm pretty sure it's not. It's been a tough year. Things haven't gone the way we would have liked and we're not where we want to be.

"I've been a part of this since '95 and we've been through our ups and downs, both on the ice and off the ice, throughout my years here. That's part of life. Everything is not going to go your way and I believe how you act in tough times defines the character you have. We're definitely being tested right now."

For a team with slim playoff hopes — the Senators (17-25-7) currently stand 13th in the Eastern Conference, 14 points shy of a post-season berth — these are indeed trying moments. But despite their current predicament, this is a team that fully intends to play hard right through to the finish line. At least that's the expectation from this group.

"We just want them to go out and play hard," said head coach Cory Clouston. "Compete, execute and do the things that give us success. And that's (maintain) puck possession, forecheck, and make smart, solid decisions and smple decisions. Don't try to force something that's not there. Sometimes, in that regard, we're our own worst enemy."

Turnovers have often been a killer during the Senators' 1-8-3 skid since Boxing Day, when Ottawa posted an impressive 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They haven't won on home ice since then, something the Senators want to remedy before heading off to the all-star break.

"What we’ve got to do is basically play to our capabilities, play to our game plan and play with emotion and desire," said defenceman Matt Carkner. "We’ve got to be mentally tough and physically tough. It’s just simple things we’ve been getting away from. We’ve been turning the puck over a lot.

"Tonight, our focus is to keep the game simple, move the puck up the ice, get it in their zone and try to be tough around their net. We’ve got to start building here, play to our capability and start having fun."

The all-star break could also help provide some necessary rejuvenation for a strong stretch one. Alfredsson, who has been dealing with what Clouston termed "a couple of bumps and bruises," believes it's a good time to get away from it all.

"It's (taxing) when you go out there and you feel like you’re giving it a good effort night in and night out, but we’re coming up short," said Alfredsson. "We're making plays we maybe wouldn’t make otherwise because the situation is the way it is. Mentally, I think it’s good for everybody to get a break and come back fresh, get better and go in the right direction.

"If we can finish off on a good note, it'll right some wrongs."

Around the boards

Alfredsson said he is unlikely to request a move to a contender when the NHL trade deadline arrives on Feb. 28. "As of now, that's not part of my plan at all," said the league's longest-serving captain. "I want to help the young guys get better and put this ship in the right direction." Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray both indicated in radio interviews with the Team 1200 on Monday they want Alfredsson to finish his career in Ottawa ... Veteran defenceman Filip Kuba is being made a healthy scratch tonight. "We need him to be more assertive, more physical and make strong and better decisions with the puck," Clouston said in explaining the move ... Brian Elliott gets the start in goal against the Sabres, with Mike Brodeur backing him up.

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