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Surgery sidelines Sens captain

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators must face the Stanley Cup champs without their leader.

On the eve of their home-opener against the Detroit Red Wings at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), the Senators learned captain Daniel Alfredsson would undergo arthroscopic surgery today to remove a bone chip in his right knee. It was dislodged when he took a hit during the Sens' 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in Stockholm.

Though it's too soon yet to determine an exact prognosis for his recovery time, Alfredsson isn't expected to miss any more than about two weeks of action.

"It's not a long-term thing," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray. "We were told that he could probably go forward with it for a little while but at some point, (the bone chip) should be removed. We thought and he thought that this was the time (to do the surgery). He will miss the season-opener here but we're hoping it won't be much more than that.

With captain Daniel Alfredsson sidelined, Jarkko Ruutu (left) will move up to the Senators' No. 1 line alongside Dany Heatley (right) and Jason Spezza. The Sens play their home-opener against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place.
"You try to suggest a time frame but to fair to him and the rest of the players, we felt we would take it as we were told and as he feels comfortable. We're assured it's not more than a couple of weeks type of thing."

With the Senators in the middle of a light stretch of schedule, with only five games (all at home) in the next two weeks, Alfredsson and the Senators staff felt now was the time to take care of the problem. Head coach Craig Hartsburg said the team's training staff indicated the bone chip was related to a previous injury, but not the one that required surgery at the end of last season.

"He tried this week to skate and it felt all right, but he still felt it," said Hartsburg. "Between the doctor and himself and us, we decided this was the best time to get it over with, so we can have a healthy Daniel Alfredsson for ther rest of the year."

On the good news side, centre Mike Fisher (groin) declared himself ready to rejoin the lineup against the Red Wings. Murray said that means no callups will be necessary at the moment from the Senators' American Hockey League farm team in Binghamton, N.Y.

"I did some good things (in practice) today," said Fisher. "I feel like I'm ready to get going."

The Senators earned three of a possible four points in Stockholm on the weekend against the Pittsburgh Penguins by playing what forward Dany Heatley called "two good team games." More of that all-for-one spirit will allow the Senators to move forward without their captain, added Hartsburg.

"Every team in the league is going to go through (injuries)," he said. "The thing we've been talking about since the start of training camp is that we need to be a team. Certainly, we're going to miss Alfie -- we're a better team when he's in there -- but it's a great opportunity for us to prove that we're different this year.

"This is a group that wants to take pride in being a team and doing whatever it takes. It's an opportunity for some people to step up and an opportunity to do more."

Count agitating winger Jarkko Ruutu, who's been moved up into the captain's spot on the No. 1 line alongside Heatley and centre Jason Spezza, among the first in line to welcome that chance.

"It's going to be fun. I'm just going to play my game," said Ruutu, one of the Senators top forwards against the Penguins in Sweden. "I don't change my game. I know my limits and I know my strengths and weaknesses. You just have to play to them."

Added Murray: "(Ruutu) is a bright player, he adapts, he can play hard and I think he has great vision on the ice. His positioning and willingness to go to the net is really going to benefit us long term."

Heatley, meanwhile,  will wear the captain's "C" in Alfredsson's absence, something the high-scoring forward called "an honour." Hartsburg deems it a necessity.

"It's important that your team has a captain every night," he said. "I think it gives not just Dany, but other people, the thought that, you know what, we've got to get this done. It doesn't matter whether (Alfredsson) is here or not, we all have to do our thing."

Around the boards

Fewer than 500 tickets remain for Saturday night's game against the Red Wings, with just 750 left for the Phoenix Coyotes' visit to Scotiabank Place on Oct. 17 ... Martin Gerber gets the start in goal against Detroit.

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