The captain is ready to get back behind the wheel, hoping to steer the Ottawa Senators to a series victory over the New York Rangers on Monday night.
“I’m hopeful,” said Daniel Alfredsson, who hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in Game 2 of the series April 14 when he was elbowed in the head by the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin. “We’re obviously going to wait until (Monday), but the way the last two days felt, I’m encouraged.”
Hagelin, who was suspended three games for the elbow, will also return for the Rangers.
Alfredsson took part in a light 70-minute optional practice Sunday. He also skated in Ottawa on Saturday, opting not to travel with the team to New York for Saturday’s Game 5, where the Senators won 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination.
“It’s obviously nice to be back on the ice and skate and it felt good. (Sunday) was another good step,” he said.
Alfredsson was originally hoping to return for Game 3, but after taking part in that morning skate, the concussion symptoms re-appeared. From there, he opted to stop exercising for several days until he jumped back on a stationary bike on Friday.
The process of watching on TV — Alfredsson even chose to watch Games 3 and 4 at Scotiabank Place on TV from his living room — have produced mixed emotions.
“It could have been a lot harder,” he said. “The guys have played really hard, the way we’ve wanted. It has been fun to watch, but also frustrating. We’ve played hard every shift. That’s been our mentality throughout the year. Give it everything we have and see where we end up at the end up. And the same thing now. Going forward (Monday), it’s just we need another gusty effort, everybody needs to bring their best and that’s it.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean, who has managed to keep his emotions in check throughout the series, steering clear of anything controversial, did allow himself a smile Sunday when talking about Alfredsson’s status.
“We’re encouraged and optimistic from the progress he has made and we’ll see where it is (Monday),:” he said. “It’s definitely encouraging.”
The return of Alfredsson would give a spark to the club’s offence and immediately make the power play a bigger threat. The Senators are a dismal 2-for-19 with the man advantage.
“I think he’s got a trillion points on the power play, so it would be nice to get him out there,” said winger Nick Foligno. “We’re looking forward to have him in there, if he’s ready to go. But if not, it’s business as usual.”
Jason Spezza says Alfredsson brings more than skill.
“We’re also a resilient bunch, so that if he can’t play, we’re fine and we can work through it,” he said. “But there are no bones about it, we’re a better team when he’s in the lineup and having his presence.”
Alfredsson hasn’t been in person to hear the loud Scotiabank Place crowd, which has embraced an “Alfie, Alfie” chant leading up to the 11-minute mark of each period.
“I’m just hoping it’s going to be as loud, if not louder,” he said. “We can use the crowd to get us going and for a hockey player playing a playoff game at home, it doesn’t get much better.”