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Stars begin to align for Sens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
With his recovery from a separated left shoulder progressing well, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson could be 10 days away from a return to the lineup (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images).

Check out the NHL's game notes for tonight's Ottawa-Florida matchup.

It's not exactly the cavalry coming to the rescue just yet.

But there's a growing light at the end of the tunnel for the Ottawa Senators on the injury front, though it won't come soon enough to help the cause tonight at Scotiabank Place against the Florida Panthers tonight (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) — or on a five-game road trip that begins Sunday, for that matter.

Senators head coach Cory Clouston indicated today that both captain Daniel Alfredsson (shoulder) and centre Jason Spezza (knee) are ahead of schedule in their recoveries from major injuries and could be available to the team before the end of January.

Alfredsson, who skated on his own this morning for the third time since suffering a separated left shoulder Dec. 23 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, appears to be showing once again that he's a quick healer.

"We're hoping (he'll return) within a week to 10 days," Clouston said of Alfredsson. "He's further along than we definitely had anticipated, but I don't think that's unusual for Alfie."

Spezza went down Dec. 14 with a torn MCL in his right knee and it was originally feared he would be gone until after the two-week Olympic break in February. But Clouston suggested today it's possible the Senators could get their No. 1 centre back in about three weeks.

"He is also a little bit ahead of (schedule)," said Clouston. "I know we said he probably wouldn't be back until after the break, but now there's a chance he could be back before the break. It's still a long ways away, but it's still better than after (the Vancouver Olympics), that's for sure."

Meanwhile, Michalek has been ruled out "long-term" with an upper-body injury. There is no timetable for when the Senators' leading goal scorer might return.

"We're hoping (he'll return) within a week to 10 days. He's further along than we definitely had anticipated, but I don't think that's unusual for Alfie." - Daniel Alfredsson
"We don't know what it's going to be," said Clouston. "It's not day-to-day. It'll be a little bit longer than that."

With their entire first line currently on the shelf, the Senators will turn to a pair of Binghamton callups — Martin St. Pierre and Zack Smith — to help fill the void. For St. Pierre, a native of nearby Embrun, it's his Ottawa regular-season debut.

"I can't choose my role, but I'll do the best I can with whatever (opportunity) is given to me," said St. Pierre, the B-Sens' leading scorer. "I'm a point getter, so I've got to produce out there and make myself noticed."

He'll no doubt have a sizable rooting section at Scotiabank Place tonight.

"That's definitely one thing I'll have in my favour, the hometown crowd," said St. Pierre. "Everybody's going to be here, so it'll be good."

Around the boards

Brian Elliott (10-10-3) gets the start in goal tonight ... Forward Shean Donovan and defenceman Alex Picard are healthy scratches tonight ... The Senators' lines during the pre-game skate: Ryan Shannon-Mike Fisher-Alex Kovalev, Nick Foligno-Peter Regin-Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Cheechoo, Smith/Donovan-St.Pierre-Winchester ... Fewer than 3,500 tickets remain for tonight's game ... The Senators' road trip begins Sunday in Raleigh, N.C., against the Hurricanes (5 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

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