The Ottawa Senators have a big week ahead and can’t get caught up dwelling on one game — even if it’s against former captain Daniel Alfredsson.
The Senators will face Alfredsson for the first time Wednesday since the 40-year-old chose to leave Ottawa and sign with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent this past summer.
Alfredsson’s decision came as a shock to many, and while fans might still be reeling, the players say they’ve moved on, adding Wednesday’s game in Detroit is more about two points on the road and beating a division rival than facing a former teammate.
“It’s more (weird) for him,” said new captain Jason Spezza. “We’re used to seeing one guy move on and play for a different team and play against teammates you’ve played with. It will be different because it’s Alfie, but I think it will be harder for him playing against Ottawa because it’s the only place he’s ever played.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean has great memories from his own time in Detroit, where he served as an assistant coach to Mike Babcock. But as far as he’s concerned, this is just one more game on the schedule.
“We’re just going there to play the Red Wings,” said MacLean. “That’s all my focus is on is we’re playing the Red Wings. That’s a big enough task in my book.
“They have lots of good players. Daniel is one of them so our focus is on the Red Wings and how they play as a team, not one guy.”
MacLean has reason to worry. Going into Monday’s games, the Red Wings led the Atlantic Division, with Alfredsson putting up one goal and nine points through his first nine games. Meanwhile, the Senators were sixth.
Senators tough guy Chris Neil says it will be a little strange to see Alfredsson in a different jersey, but says he won’t get any special treatment. If the opportunity to finish a check on Alfredsson arises, he won’t think twice.
“At the end of the day he’s just on another team,” said Neil, who spent 11 seasons with Alfredsson. “It’s not like he’s not our friend, but you’ve got to go out and play hard against him. For us we want to get the two points and that’s the bottom line. It’s no different than playing other friends on other teams.”
While the Senators seem to have adjusted to life without Alfredsson, there is perhaps no one who misses him more than Erik Karlsson. The Senators defenceman lived with Alfredsson and his family as a rookie and the two Swedes were extremely close.
“It’s been very different,” Karlsson said. “He’s been here as long as I’ve been here and longer than that as well. It’s just something that you were used to and someone you were used to having around all the time. It’s different, but it’s going well. I’m still a happy guy and even though I miss him we’re still talking every once in a while so it’s all good.”
As for facing his former mentor, Karlsson doesn’t anticipate it being as big a deal as many are making it out to be.
“It’s going to be different in a way, but I think once the game starts it’s not going to be on anyone’s mind it’s going to be like a regular game. Maybe if we see him before the game and after it’s going to be a little bit weird, but once the puck drops I think it’s going to be just like normal.”
Alfredsson had a great deal of influence on the franchise and the community and Neil understands the emotional impact the former captain’s departure has had, but he says everyone needs to move on.
“The city of Ottawa is going to miss him and as teammates of his for so long we miss him too, but he turned the page. We’ve got to turn the page too,” he said. “You don’t dwell on it, you just go out, focus on the task at hand and that’s to beat the Detroit Red Wings.”
Notes: D Chris Phillips was given a maintenance day, but is expected to practice Tuesday. ... While Karlsson wears a visor in games, he says he’s opted to practice without one. ... The Senators held an 80-minute practice that featured a lot of skating drills.