Okay, Ottawa Senators fans. Captain Daniel Alfredsson is putting the pressure on you.
Alfredsson likens the current edition of the Senators to the unlikely 1997 squad which qualified for the post-season – the first playoff appearance in the modern history of the franchise.
“Nobody expected us to do much, but we worked really hard to get there we have to make sure we’re not satisfied and, again, this time, we have to push ourselves,” he said.
Alfredsson also remembers the outpouring from the fans at Scotiabank Place before taking to the ice for Game 3 of that series, against the Buffalo Sabres. “We had goosebumps in the dressing room,” he says. “There was an unbelievable atmosphere in the crowd for that first game.”
Will the current underdog Senators receive anything close to same outpouring when they take the ice for Game 3 at Scotiabank Place next Monday? At this point, 750 tickets remain for Game 3, 1,500 for Game 4 and 1,750 tickets are available for a possible Game 6.
ANOTHER KICK AT THE CUP: For those counting, Alfredsson is now embarking on his 14th quest for the Stanley Cup and on Tuesday he was asked for some of his favourite memories along the way. The Senators first-ever playoff win, over New Jersey in 1998, was significant for him, because “it was like the Professor against the student and we beat them at their own game,” referring to the head-to-head match-up between Senators’ coach Jacques Martin and New Jersey’s Jacques Lemaire, both defensive specialists.
MAGIC NUMBER FOR GREENING: Forgive Colin Greening if he’s lost the exact count, but at some point in the next week or two against the New York Rangers, he will have played 200 games in the past two seasons.
Including his full 82-game season with the Ottawa Senators this season, coupled with his 83 regular season games in 2010-11 (59 with Ottawa and 24 with Binghamton of the AHL), playing all 23 games in Binghamton’s run to the Calder Cup last spring and another six exhibition games with Ottawa in the past two seasons, he’s at the 194 mark. Throw in a few exhibition games with Binghamton at the start of the 2010-11 campaign and he’s fast closing in on the 200-mark.
Greening’s got company. Zack Smith is at 193 games played, Erik Condra is at 191 (plus a few more Binghamton exhibition games) and Jared Cowen is at 185, including his games with Ottawa, Binghamton, Spokane and Canada’s world junior team.
“For a lot of us, the good thing about us, is we know what it’s like to go through a playoff series,” said Greening. Greening’s ability to adapt was on display again Tuesday. He was lined up on a checking line with Jesse Winchester and Chris Neil, allowing rookie Mika Zibanajed to practice alongside Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, Greening’s normal position.
“If that’s the role they want me to play, then I will play that,” said Greening, whose 17 regular season goals ranked him fifth among NHL rookies. “That’s one of the strengths of our team. We have guys that work well (anywhere) and not just limited to one line.”
IT’S A SMALL WORLD, AFTER ALL: Before joining the Senators in July, 2007, assistant GM Tim Murray and director of player personnel Pierre Dorion were at the top of the Rangers’ scouting department.
While in the Big Apple, they were big players in the selection of defenceman Marc Staal (12th overall in the 2005 entry draft, three spots after the Senators selected Brian Lee), defenceman Michael Sauer (40th overall in 2005), centre Artem Anisimov (54th overall in 2006) and left winger Carl Hagelin (168th overall in 2007). Unfortunately for Sauer, he has been out of the Rangers lineup with a concussion since being hit by Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf on Dec. 5. His absence will test the depth of New York’s defence, particularly in a long series.
GILROY REMEMBERS RANGERS ROOTS: Senators defenceman Matt Gilroy began his career with the Rangers in 2009-10 and scored his first and only NHL playoff goal in his first game last spring. The Rangers lost in five games to Washington. His friends from last year’s playoffs have suddenly become his enemies.
“Bryan Boyle is one of my very best friends, Brandon Prust is a good buddy of mine and (Staal), too…it’s exciting to get to play against them, but hopefully we can beat them.”
Along the same lines, Erik Karlsson offered the following on playing against Rangers goaltending star Henrik Lundqvist, a fellow Swede: “He’s had a good year and everyone’s happy for him, but hopefully it’s time for him to go home.” Not exactly bulletin board stuff, but juicy, just the same.
COLLEGE STAR SIGNS WITH RANGERS: While Senators practice was abuzz with Zibanejad speculation Tuesday, the Rangers made a splash of their own, signing Boston College star Chris Kreider to a two-year contract. It’s possible that Kreider, who scored 23 goals and 22 assists in 45 games this season, could play against the Senators. Kreider, a centre, is 6-3 and 225 pounds.
ON THE SUBJECT OF….: During his end of the year wrap-up press conference, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke mused about the possibility NHL teams may not be able to bury contracts in the minors under the next collective bargaining agreement. That had us thinking about former Senators defenceman Wade Redden, toiling in the minors because the Rangers overpaid him. Redden, who has scored four goals and 15 assists in 47 games with the AHL’s Connecticut Whale this season, made $6.5 million this season. He’s due to make $6.5 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14, as well.
TODAY’S NUMBERS: Senators goaltender Craig Anderson is a perfect 6-0-0 at Madison Square Garden…Since the current NHL playoff match-up was established in 1994, number one seeds (in this case, the Rangers) have an all-time record of 25-9 against number eight seeds.