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Captain still hoping to steer Sens' ship

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Their ship is hardly anywhere near sinking.

But the Ottawa Senators might have to sail their way out of a mini-slump without captain Daniel Alfredsson on hand to lead the troops.

The vastly improved Philadelphia Flyers arrive at Scotiabank Place on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) to face a Senators team that has dropped two straight games for the first time this season, and is 3-3-1 in its last seven. But whether Alfredsson, who pulled a groin muscle during Thursday’s shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, is back on board against the Flyers remains to be seen.

“If it improves again (Saturday), I’ll probably try to skate and go from there,” Alfredsson said Friday morning. “The way it feels, it shouldn’t be too bad. I’ve got pretty good range of motion today, so we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

Alfredsson tweaked the groin during the overtime period of Thursday’s game, which is why he wasn’t called upon to take part in the shootout that decided the final outcome.

“I felt some tightness in the third period, and then I was joining a rush and trying to sprint, and I felt a little discomfort in the groin area,” he said.

The captain is hopeful a day’s rest will allow him to return against the Flyers.

“If I’m ready, I’m ready,” said Alfredsson. “We’ll see how it is tomorrow and if it’s ready, I’ll go.”

Nobody has to ask how much it would hurt the Senators to hit the ice against the Flyers without their leader, who’s been playing some of the best hockey of his career.

“We think he’s the best player in the league so far this season,” said winger Dany Heatley. “If he’s not able to go, other guys are going to have to step up like they have in the past.”

Head coach John Paddock is hopeful that group will include centre Randy Robitaille, who’s missed the last two games with a bruised left hand. Forward Patrick Eaves is also out indefinitely with a separated right shoulder.

“It’ll be a decision tomorrow morning, for sure,” Paddock said about Robitaille’s status. “I’m hoping, half-assuming he’ll be ready because he was close (Thursday), he went out for the (pre-game) warmup. We’ll need to know for sure in the morning and make some adjustments if he doesn’t.”

While the Senators were looser defensively than usual in squandering a pair of two-goal leads against the Penguins, the bigger concern is discipline. More specifically, the penalties that have continued to plague the Senators in recent games.

“I don’t like seeing us take that many penalties a long way from the net,” Paddock said in reference to Thursday’s loss. “The fact is, we know if you put a stick on somebody’s waist, that’s a penalty … so that’s got to get better.”

Added Alfredsson: “The biggest thing for us is still the penalties. We’re putting ourselves in a tough position, not only by giving the other team chances, but we’re disrupting our own rhythm. A lot of guys don’t get to play for periods of time and that’s no good.”

All that being said, at 16-4-1, the Senators still sit comfortably on top of the Eastern Conference heap. Not that there’s time to sit back and rest on those laurels.

“We’ve made good hay to have the record that we have, but you don’t want to let anything slip away because you get these times where you have a heavier schedule and you’re missing a key player or two and it has some effect,” said Paddock. “I know we’re in good shape in the standings and I think our players will respond to a little bit of adversity with Alfie in a strong way … I think we’ll have a real good, responsible, hard effort tomorrow.”

Martin Gerber will be back in net for the Senators.

Only about 150 tickets remain for the game.

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