It’s back to business for the Ottawa Senators today.
With the National Hockey League’s all-star game break now officially in the books, the Senators hit the ice on Long Island later Monday afternoon to begin preparations for the first game of the rest of their season.
The Sens and New York Islanders face off Tuesday night at Nassau Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. (7 p.m., Sens TV, Team 1200) to begin a busy six-week stretch in which they’ll play no less than three games per week.
Let’s just say it won’t give captain Daniel Alfredsson
and centre Jason Spezza
, who were a part of NHL all-star activities in Atlanta along with head coach John Paddock, much time to savour the memories of a fun weekend at Philips Arena.
But Alfredsson, who was named Monday the NHL’s first star for last week, is looking forward to a return to the grind. Not that he minded Sunday’s 8-7 win by Eastern Conference, though.
“Sometimes, the intensity (of the regular season) is a lot of fun,” he said after the all-star affair. “The battles along the boards, I don’t mind that at all. But this is a good change from the regular routine.”
Spezza, who recorded two assists in his first all-star game appearance, knows it won’t take long for the fun, friendly atmosphere of the weekend to subside.
“Once you get going (again) and you put your jersey on, the blood gets bubbling,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s a shinny game or you’re playing with your best buddies … we know we’ll be competing and when you play against a guy, he’s going to compete just as hard as he would if you didn’t know him.”
Alfredsson and Spezza both left Atlanta feeling good about the experience.
“Just being around everybody was a lot of fun,” said Alfredsson, who played in his fifth all-star game. “It’s a good atmosphere and everybody’s in a good mood and enjoying the festivities. Overall, it’s just a good weekend.”
Added Spezza: “I had a good time, played with a couple of pretty good players (Alex Ovechkin and Martin St. Louis). We had fun and moved the puck around pretty good… our team won, so that always makes it even better.”
Now, though, the focus shifts to the bigger picture. Even for Alfredsson, the NHL's current scoring leader (67 points) and someone with a legitimate shot at a 50-goal season (32 goals in 47 games so far).
"It's nice to be up there (in the scoring race)," Alfredsson, who called the weekly first star award "a great honour," said Monday. "I don't rule out (50 goals). I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it, but it would be a lot of fun.
"I still think you focus on the team, where you are in the standings. We've got to keep pushing to stay ahead of everybody else so we can reach our goal, which is winning the conference."
He admitted the wins aren't going to come as easily for the Eastern Conference leaders (31-15-4), who hold a seven-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils but are only up six on the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division.
"More consistency, that's what we would like, but it's going to be really hard," said Alfredsson. "Every game is going to be important — there's so many teams fighting for a playoff spot. So you're not going to get any easy games at all.
"(But for us), it's not just focusing on the wins and losses, but more on how we play. Defensively, we need to tighten up a bit to fine tune our game going into the playoffs."
Martin Gerber (22-8-1) makes the start in goal against the Islanders. Forward Patrick Eaves (sore neck, shoulder) won't dress and is listed as day-to-day.
After Tuesday night’s game against the Isles, the Senators return home to face the Boston Bruins on Thursday (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) at Scotiabank Place. The week wraps up with a visit to Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday for a matchup with the provincial rival Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).AHL all-stars shine in Binghamton tonight
The Binghamton Senators are the hosts for the annual American Hockey League All-Star Classic. It’s a 7:30 p.m. start at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, with the Canadian all-stars taking on PlanetUSA. B-Sens forward Denis Hamel is the game captain for the Canadian side, whose starting lineup includes Binghamton defenceman Lawrence Nycholat. Another B-Sens blueliner, Brian Lee, suits up for PlanetUSA.