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Senators pointing toward home stretch

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg diagrams a play in front of Jason Spezza and his teammates during the team's practice session on Wednesday morning at Scotiabank Place.

Home is where the points are.

At least in October for the Ottawa Senators, who still have plenty of chances to make hay at Scotiabank Place before hitting the road at the end of the month. Last Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings marked the first of five straight home games for the Sens, who have a pair of them back-to-back this weekend.

The Phoenix Coyotes visit the capital on Friday night (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), then it's the Boston Bruins' turn at Scotiabank Place on Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). In head coach Craig Hartsburg's mind, it's an early season chance to rack up some points that might make a huge difference down the road.

"It's time to get playing some games," Hartsburg said Wednesday in the middle of a six-day layoff since the Detroit matchup. "Your biggest fear after having such a layoff is that other teams are in that competitive mode. Today and tomorrow, we've got to get ourselves ready to compete in a real hockey game again.

"The importance of points at this time of year is huge. We've got to make sure that during this homestand, we're focused on that. We've got to start getting that game mentality on for Friday."

Whether Daniel Alfredsson will make a remarkably quick comeback from arthroscopic knee surgery last Friday and play this weekend remains up in the air. The Senators captain skated on his own for a second straight day, then took part in the first half hour of practice with his teammates this morning.

"I still don't know, I guess," said Alfredsson, who was encouraged that the knee felt fine after spending about an hour in total on the ice today. "We'll just take it day by day and, hopefully, there are no setbacks where you've got to take a couple of days off.

"We'll just see how it goes. There's a possibility for the weekend but then again, I'm not going to be jumping into anything not knowing if (the knee) is going to hold up. It's going in the right direction... I'm still a bit away to be 100 per cent but if it keeps improving every day, I can push a little bit more. We'll see."

While Hartsburg obviously wants to see his captain back in the Senators lineup, he isn't about to hurry him, either, at such an early point in the season.

"We're certainly not going to rush him back into the lineup," said Hartsburg. "It'll come down to how Alfie feels and when he thinks he's ready to play. You trust a guy who's been in the league a long time and knows there's a lot of hockey left (in the season). He's knows his body better than we do, so you have to trust him and the training staff to do the right things.

"He wants to play – obviously, he's a competitor – but that decision will be made in the next few days or next week or whenever he's ready."

Around the boards

Fewer than 500 tickets remain for Friday night's game against the Coyotes, while just 1,500 are left for Saturday's matchup with the Bruins ... Martin Gerber has been tabbed to start in goal against Phoenix.

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