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Alfredsson's return a week away

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Daniel Alfredsson takes a breather during his off-ice workout at the Bell Sensplex on Wednesday. The Senators captain is hoping to return to the Ottawa lineup within the next week.

Daniel Alfredsson admits there might not be a "perfect day" for him to return to the lineup.

But the Ottawa Senators captain is anxious to lend a hand to his undermanned team, which is struggling to escape the grip of a losing streak that has now reached five games.

After a one-hour on-ice workout with assistant coach Luke Richardson earlier today, Alfredsson – who's been sidelined with a separated left shoulder since Dec. 23 – suggested he'll likely be ready for game action "sometime next week." But while he plans to join his teammates Friday in Montreal, Alfredsson doesn't expect to suit up against the Canadiens on Saturday night.

"There's no goal," he said when asked about a target date for his return. "(I'll take) the next few days and then practise with the team, hopefully, in Montreal either Friday or Saturday. Then I'll know how close I am to returning."

When Alfredsson first suffered the injury in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the prognosis was for a 4-to-6 week recovery. It appears now that he'll wind up on the short end of that original assessment.

"I've been fortunate so far with this (injury). It's gone well," said Alfredsson. "Doing contact (is the next step). I feel pretty good shooting and moving around the ice, but nobody is there to hit me or check me. Once I do that and get some confidence doing that as well and feel like I can go into the corners with confidence, then I'll know I'm ready.

"I don’t know if you can tell exactly ‘is today the perfect day or not?’ You just have to make sure you feel confident in game situations. Once I feel confident there, that’s when you know you’re ready."

With the injury-riddled Senators starving for goals – they've been outscored 22-5 during their five-game skid – Alfredsson's return can't come soon enough. But he's also quick to point out he can't turn the tide all by himself.

"I've been fortunate so far with this (injury). It's gone well. I don’t know if you can tell exactly 'is today the perfect day or not?' You just have to make sure you feel confident in game situations. Once I feel confident there, that’s when you know you’re ready." - Daniel Alfredsson
"I don’t think you can expect anyone coming back (from an injury) to be a saviour," said Alfredsson. "But hopefully, (I can be) a big part of getting it back on track. Maybe they will have done that before I come back."

A return by Alfredsson next week also increases the possibility he'll be able to represent Sweden at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. He helped the Tre Kronor claim Olympic gold in Turin in 2006.

"I definitely hope so," said Alfredsson of playing in the Winter Games hockey tournament, which begins Feb. 16. "I’m hoping (to play) next week sometime. That should give me enough time to get ready and play a lot of games before the Olympics as well.

"I’m not going to do anything that would jeopardize my shoulder. If it’s not feeling good and I’m not playing for Ottawa, I won’t play in the Olympics."

Senators make goaltending coach change

Unhappy with the performance of his team's netminding tandem, Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced today that goaltending coach Eli Wilson has been relieved of his duties. Murray expects the Senators will have "someone in at least a consulting capacity' as a replacement by next week.

"Eli worked extremely hard, he's a real good guy and got along real well with the coaching staff," Senators head coach Cory Clouston told the media in New York, where the Senators will face off against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). "But it’s a performance-based business and right now, our goaltending obviously isn’t where it needs to be. That was the basis for the change."

With a team goals-against average of 3.06, the Senators rank 25th of 30 clubs in the National Hockey League. Both starter Pascal Leclaire (3.07 GAA, .890 save percentage) and backup Brian Elliott (2.91, .893) have struggled in recent games.

"The goalies should not think we’re solely blaming Eli because that’s not the case," said Clouston. "Everyone has to have some responsibility and to me, this does not alleviate the responsibility from the goalies. They’re part of it, I’m part of it, the rest of the coaching staff and the team is part of all of this. We just have to move forward and find ways to win. That’s our job."

Around the boards

Clouston said defenceman Filip Kuba (upper body) is "50-50" to return to the lineup against the Rangers on Thursday night. "He's possible," said Clouston. "When I talked to Gerry (Townend, the Sens' head athletic therapist) this morning, he’s definitely not ruling it out. So we’ll give him a morning skate tomorrow and we’ll see how he feels from there." ... The Senators conclude their current road trip with games Saturday in Montreal (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) and Monday in Boston (1 p.m., no TV, Team 1200).

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