Check out the NHL game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Chicago matchup
|Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has produced four goals and three assists in his first two games back from a separated left shoulder (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images).
His teammates gained an almost immediate lift from the moment Daniel Alfredsson
returned to the Ottawa Senators lineup.
But even the Senators captain admits surprise at the offensive production he's generated in his first two games back from the injury list. Alfredsson collected a goal and two assists in Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, then added a natural hat trick on Monday afternoon as Ottawa rolled past the Bruins 5-1 in Boston.
"I didn’t really expect anything," he said earlier today. "I knew I felt good enough to play and I could help out and manage the puck maybe more than we had in the previous games. To be able to get the points that I have in the last few games … I don’t think I expected that but it’s been great."
Especially, too, given the fact that Alfredsson was mired in a 13-game goal-less drought when he went down on Dec. 23 with a separated left shoulder. But after sitting out 11 games while letting the shoulder heal, he's back with a new bounce in his step.
"Mentally and physically, I feel very rejuvenated," Alfredsson said following the Senators' pre-game skate in advance of tonight's matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). "The travel, the schedule the way it’s been … it’s been hard. So getting time to heal up not only my shoulder but other parts of the body as well ... I feel good."
Added centre Mike Fisher: "He recovered a lot quicker than most people thought (and) he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. It’s pretty impressive. It’s a huge boost for us. He’s been a big part of our offence – most of our offence – the last couple of games. Hopefully, he can keep it rolling and we’ll get some more bodies back soon, too."
Senators head coach Cory Clouston has noticed the change in the energy level of his captain, too, but isn't surprised by his offensive contributions.
"I think I was more surprised that he was on a 13-game goal-less streak before that," said Clouston. "It’s just a long season. Sometimes things go well for you, sometimes they don’t. Right now, he’s playing well, he’s energized and I think the team is playing well."
Indeed, Alfredsson happened to rejoin a team that was coming off a 2-0 shutout victory over the Rangers in New York on Thursday night, which snapped a five-game losing streak. His return merely added to the momentum the team gained that night.
"We couldn’t have played much better than that Ranger game," said Clouston. "(Alfredsson) gives us confidence – when you put a player like that into your lineup, he’s going to give you confidence. But our players had confidence before that. We’re getting good goaltending and that helps. We’re just doing a lot of little things well right now."
"I didn’t really expect anything. I knew I felt good enough to play and I could help out and manage the puck maybe more than we had in the previous games. To be able to get the points that I have in the last few games … I don’t think I expected that but it’s been great." - Daniel Alfredsson
They'll need to keep doing them against the high-flying Hawks (34-11-4), who rank first overall in the National Hockey League standings and boast a potent attack that includes the likes of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. But Clouston likes what he sees from his team right now, even if it's just returning home from a taxing five-game road trip.
"We feel we’re playing pretty well right now," said Clouston. "We’re playing a pretty solid defensive game. Last night, we gave up only seven chances, so we think our defensive game is where it needs to be. But what a challenge, the depth that Chicago has offensively.
"I think the biggest challenge for us tonight is going to be able to come back with a real solid effort. We played (yesterday afternoon), so we’ve just got to really fight the fatigue. Some of that is going to be mental fatigue rather than physical fatigue (after) a long road trip. But our guys feel good this morning. We’ll be ready."
Alfredsson agreed, saying tonight's matchup "comes at a perfect time."
"We’re playing well," he said. "They’re the best team in the league – you look at their lineup and they’ve got a lot of offensive threats. It’s going to be a good challenge and a fun challenge. It’s nice to play at home against them, for our (fans) to see them and see how we match up against them."
Around the boards
Centre Jason Spezza
(knee) and forward Milan Michalek
(concussion) skated this morning and both are moving closer to returning to the lineup. Clouston said Spezza "could be back within a week," while Michalek might be ready for Thursday's matchup with the St. Louis Blues at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) ... Brian Elliott, who posted a near-shutout against the Bruins, gets the start in goal tonight ... Defenceman Alex Picard is a healthy scratch ... Fewer than 2,750 tickets remain for tonight's game.