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Alfredsson still plays waiting game

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The waiting game continues for Daniel Alfredsson.

While the Ottawa Senators captain skated briefly after the team’s pre-game skate Tuesday morning, he later declared himself a scratch again for tonight’s key divisional matchup with the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sens TV, Team 1200).

It will be the fourth straight game Alfredsson has missed since taking a cross-check to the back from Ducks defenceman François Beauchemin during the third period of their March 3 contest in Anaheim, Calif. Alfredsson tried a 10-minute skate this morning but said the pain level remains too high to allow him to play.

“I skated Saturday and didn’t feel good at all,” said Alfredsson. “I wanted to see where I am (today) and what I can do on the ice. Obviously, I skated a lot better today and moved a bit more freely. It’s getting closer… It’s going in the right direction.”

Alfredsson said it’s “too early to say” whether he’ll be game-ready for Thursday’s huge showdown in Montreal against the Canadiens, the team the Senators are currently chasing for the Northeast Division lead.

“I was hoping I was going to play last Thursday,” he said. “You’ve just got to take it day-by-day and it’s encouraging that it feels better.”

It hasn’t been a smooth ride for the Senators this season without their captain – Ottawa is 2-7-1 in games Alfredsson has missed. Head coach/general manager Bryan Murray said he’d like to see more of the collective effort that produced Saturday night’s 4-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes.

“He’s a real important player and any time a team in this league loses their captain and one of their best players – if not the best – it’s more difficult,” he said. “All we’ve ever asked is, everybody work together and get your battle level up a little higher than it has been.

“You’ve got to, in this league, play without good players occasionally. You hope it’s not long-term, that’s all. Just play like a team, work hard, defend well and let the chips fall where they may. If you give yourself a chance, you have a chance to win every night.”

Added forward Antoine Vermette: “It’s about playing well together, being structured and making sure we rely on each other. (Take care of) the little details and minimize the mistakes and turnovers.”

That mindset takes on even greater meaning as the regular season winds to a finish. The Senators will play 10 of their final 12 games against Northeast Division opponents – three each with the Canadiens and Bruins, and a pair against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“We can’t think about who’s in or out of our lineup right now,” said forward Dany Heatley. “These games coming up are all four-point games. (We’ve got) a lot of division games down the stretch here and they’re all going to count huge.

“We’ve just got to worry about who’s in and (the level of) our game each and every night.”

Scoring goals rates at the top of that list. Until they broke lose against the Coyotes on Saturday, the Senators struggled to find the net on their western road trip. But the National Hockey League’s highest-scoring team (223 goals, tied with Montreal) remains confident it can get back on track offensively.

“We know the offence will come, but I think we’ve been forcing it a bit too much and trying to be too pretty at times,” said centre Mike Fisher. “Just do the little things, get pucks at the net… that’s how you’re going to get goals, especially at this time of the year when it’s so tight and defensively, teams are playing much better.

“We know we’re a high-scoring team. It’s just a matter of will and determination to get back there.”

Around the boards

Towering Bruins blueliner Zdeno Chara is out tonight with what is being called an “upper torso” injury. “It’s a little bit of an offset (to Alfredsson’s absence), no question,” said Murray … Martin Gerber (25-13-3) makes his sixth straight start in the Senators net … Fewer than 200 tickets remain for tonight’s game ... CBC Sports announced it has signed broadcaster Jim Hughson to a six-year contract to work Hockey Night in Canada games through 2013-14. Hughson was the play-by-play man back on April 15, 1999 at the Corel Centre (now Scotiabank Place), when Wayne Gretzky played his final NHL game in Canada.

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