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Surgery 'the right thing to do' for Senators captain

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will undergo surgery on Friday to relieve pressure being caused by a pinched nerve in his back. He'll face 4-6 weeks of rehab afterward, but expects to be in top form for the opening of training camp (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Daniel Alfredsson believes he's doing what is necessary to prolong his National Hockey League career.

The Ottawa Senators captain, whose 2010-11 season was ended in early February because of lower back pain, will undergo surgery on Friday to fix the problem. Alfredsson had hoped to avoid taking that route but after four months of rehab work, decided surgery was the best solution.

"It came to that and actually, I feel pretty good about the decision," Alfredsson told the Team 1200. "I've gone a long time rehabbing it and it's a lot better than it was during the season, but it's still acting up and (the pain) is still coming back when I push myself physically. I feel really confident, after doing this, (about) coming back and feeling a lot better than I did last year."

Added Senators general manager Bryan Murray: "He felt to continue his career at the level he wants to, it's the right thing to do. It's just to relieve a little pressure on a nerve that has taken away some of the strength in his leg and affected his skating and overall game."

Doctors have told Alfredsson he'll face 4-6 months of rehab after the operation.

"I'm going to be on the cautious side," he said. "If it takes seven or eight weeks, I'm fine with that. The timing is good for me to go into training camp at 100 per cent."

Murray isn't concerned that Alfredsson, who turns 39 in December, won't be able to regain his form in the wake of this week's surgery.

"He'll be fit for training camp," said Murray. "There's always a concern with any player coming off surgery of any type. But knowing Daniel and his work ethic and willingness to work hard to get ready to play, he'll be as fit as he can be."

"I think he's fine, I really do. His career work ethic and body type makes us believe he's got some time left and it'll probably be up to him when he doesn't want to play anymore."

Alfredsson tried to play through the pain but finally shut it down after a Feb. 7 game in Vancouver. He finished the season with 14 goals, 17 assists and 31 points, his lowest totals since 1998-99. Clearly, his ailing back affected the captain's performance.

"It did quite a bit, to be honest," said Alfredsson. "I've had hip problems before, where I've been able to overcome it, but this year it became worse and worse and mostly, I started feeling a lot of tingling down my right leg. (It) felt very heavy at times. Very frustrating.

"I wasn't even confident that it was my back causing the problem. But talking to the doctors and our medical staff, it just came to the point where I kind of realized I had a pinched nerve and that's what was causing all the problems for me. So they're going to open up more room for the nerve to be able to slide.

"If everything works out fine, I feel really good that I can be back and feel better than I did last year."

There are several examples around the NHL, Murray added, of players continuing to perform at a high level beyond their 40th birthday. Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks reached that age last summer, then went out and scored 31 goals and 80 points in 2010-11 — his best totals in four years.

"More and more, we see guys playing longer," said Murray. "You saw Mark Recchi (of the Boston Bruins) last night, Nicklas Lidstrom (of the Detroit Red Wings), Daniel ... people who have looked after themselves over their careers and have that emotional desire to continue to play seem to be able to do it.

"Fifteen years ago, we were encouraging guys to quit at 31 or 32. Now we encourage them to keep playing as long as they want to and I think Daniel will do that."

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