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Taking one for the captain

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will use 11 sticks tonight against the Florida Panthers stamped with the number 1,000 to mark his latest NHL career milestone (OSHC Photo).

He's been their inspiration in so many ways over the years, not to mention their unquestioned leader.

Now it's a night for the Ottawa Senators to win one for their captain.

A victory would certainly would be a most fitting result, indeed, for Daniel Alfredsson when the Senators face off against the Florida Panthers this evening at the BankAtlantic Center (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

This is no ordinary affair for Alfredsson, who is set to play his 1,000th career National Hockey League game. He'll be the 251st player in league history to do so, but only the 44th to accomplish the feat with a single franchise.

"You know the guys are going to play hard for Alfie," head coach Cory Clouston said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today in Sunrise, Fla. "They’re going to want to get him that win and make it a lot more memorable.

"So if you’re looking for reasons and incentives to play a little bit harder at this time of the year when maybe in the standings it’s not quite as big as it was a week ago, that might be a good opportunity for us."

For his part, Alfredsson is eager for the moment to arrive. He'll use 11 sticks tonight, each of them custom-made by Easton with the number 1,000 printed on the shaft and "1,000th" stamped on the back side of the blade. As well, the Ottawa captain will wear three jerseys against the Panthers — one for his family and one for the Senators organization, with the third destined for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"There's been a lot of talk and a lot of waiting for this day to come, and it's going to be a lot of fun," said Alfredsson. "And sharing this with your teammates and the staff that are around the team ... I'm looking forward to it."

"You know the guys are going to play hard for Alfie. They’re going to want to get him that win and make it a lot more memorable. So if you’re looking for reasons and incentives to play a little bit harder at this time of the year when maybe in the standings it’s not quite as big as it was a week ago, that might be a good opportunity for us." - Cory Clouston
The classy Alfredsson has received a number of congratulatory calls and e-mails from friends around hockey, including one from Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, a Senators executive during Alfredsson's early years with the franchise. He expects there will be some recognition of his feat in Sweden, though such numbers aren't as intensely followed there.

"Overall in Europe, stats are not as acknowledged as much as they are in North America," he said. "Here, you do look for pretty much anything and can analyze anything. There's very few people who would ever play 1,000 games in any sport in Sweden because there are not enough games. I'm sure there will be a few articles, but nothing big."

Almost lost in all the Alfredsson talk was the news that goaltender Pascal Leclaire will get the start tonight against the Panthers, his first since March 20.

"I feel good," he said. "I'll take what I can get right now. It'll be good to get a game before the playoffs start. Like anyone else, I have to make sure I play well and it should be good."

Around the boards

Forward Milan Michalek's return to the lineup is being delayed until Thursday, when the Senators close out their road trip in Tampa against the Lightning (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). "(He felt) very good today but we'll just wait another day," said Clouston. "Unless something changes, he's going to play on Thursday." ... Newcomer Bobby Butler, who impressed in his first two NHL games last week, will sit out tonight, with Ryan Shannon drawing back into the lineup. "He's got a nice offensive touch, some creativity and I liked his board work as well," Clouston said of Butler. "There's some definite positives there for sure." ... The Senators close out their regular schedule Saturday at Scotiabank Place against the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Prior to the game, the Senators will hold a special ceremony honouring Alfredsson's 1,000-game milestone.


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