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Senators captain 'further ahead than a year ago'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
As he approaches his 17th NHL season, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson feels confident about his health (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images).

One year later, the doubts have been erased.

As Daniel Alfredsson ponders what will be his 17th season in the National Hockey League, the Senators captain feels a certain calm when it comes to the state of his health.

"I feel much better," the 39-year-old Alfredsson said earlier today with an eye toward the 2012-13 season. "For me, there were a lot of uncertainties going into camp last year and I feel like I’m further ahead than a year ago ... I'm ready (to go)."

Heading into training camp last fall, Alfredsson was coming off a 2010-11 season which was cut short to 54 games — the lowest total of his career — by a nerve issue in his back that required off-season surgery. While he wasn't certain how his back would react, Alfredsson turned in a renaissance season. The 39-year-old native of Goteborg, Sweden, produced 27 goals, his highest total in four years, and was one of the Senators' best performers in their first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers.

Most importantly, the fun quotient was back in Alfredsson's game last year, much of it fuelled by the youthful core of Senators that have sprouted up around him — and hold plenty of promise for the future. Undoubtedly, all of that played a role during the summer months, when the captain had to decide whether he had enough in the tank to return for another season. Even if everyone around him in the Ottawa dressing room expressed no such concerns.

His improved health and a burning desire — even as he approaches his 40th birthday — to keep improving provided further fuel for Alfredsson to return.

"I have a lot of fun on the ice. There's no question I love the game," Alfredsson told the Ottawa Sun in an interview last week. "Last year was very encouraging for me in how I skated and I think I can improve on that. The main thing for me is staying healthy. Last year, I missed one game because of a hip flexor (ailment) and not counting the concussions.

"That's pretty good when you're older. If I can maintain that, I'll be happy."

Alfredsson will also rejuvenated by a summer trip back to his homeland with wife Bibbi and their four children, Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William. For the Alfredssons, the months they spent in Sweden represented their longest sojourn in Scandinavia in awhile.

"It was great," said Alfredsson. "We haven’t been home for a couple of years. Our kids had a fabulous time seeing family and cousins. We had a much better summer than you guys if you’re a farmer. If you like sunbathing, we didn’t have a good summer.

"But we had a lot of fun. It was nice to be back. (His children) improved their Swedish quite a bit, which was nice."

Back in July, when Alfredsson finalized his decision to return, he spoke about the way such NHL stars as Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne are productive players in their 40s, and doesn't see why he can't join them.

"I've had issues with my back for a few years and now that I feel healthy again, I want to see how good I can be," he said. "You see other players at 40 and 40-plus like Jagr and Selanne, and maybe it's a new trend that's starting. If you look after yourself and take care of yourself, you can still play and who knows what the limit is?

"So that's kind of an intriguing part of it for me, too, to see how much can I push myself and work. How good can I still be? I feel that I can get better, especially when I look back at the health issues I've had and, feeling that I've corrected that, I should be able to push myself and be better, especially physically, than I was last year."

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