The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/21/13 at 07:34 PM ET
Updated 3x at 2:16 AM on Tuesday:The Ottawa Senators lost 3-1 to Edmonton on Saturday, but the 3-3-and-2 Senators don't play another hockey game until they come to Joe Louis Arena with TSN and a cadre of Canadian media types (the CP's Stephen Whyno's already in town, and you can expect Sportsnet, the Globe and mail, the CBC and probably NHL.com to join the Senators' press corps) for Wednesday's Daniel Alfredsson reunion game (7:30 PM, FSD/TSN/97.1 FM).
As such, the Senators are already looking forward to the affair, from their coach on down, as OttawaSenators.com's Chris Lund reported after Monday's practice in Ottawa:
On going to Detroit with Alfredsson present: Well, Mike Babcock is still there, Pavel Datsyuk is still there, Henrik Zetterberg is still there, there are a lot of people that are still there. It's still a great place and I had the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup there so it's always going to be a place where you're going to go back to and know lots of people. As far as I'm concerned it's the next game on the schedule really, and they're a difficult opponent. We need to be more focused on them than anything else.
On if they'll say anything to the team ahead of the game:: I think Bobby Ryan went back to Anaheim and it was emotional for him, I'm not going to be able to speak for Daniel. We're just going there to play the Red Wings, that's all my focus is on is we're playing the Red Wings. That's a big enough task in my book.
On prepping the team to play Detroit as a team: Every game somebody knows somebody. This is the first time so I guess that makes it more significant, but the first time Bobby went back to Anaheim he seemed to get through it alright. We all have our first so I think it's more on Daniel than it is on us. They have a good team, they have lots of good players, Daniel is one of them. Our focus is on the Red Wings and how they play as a team, not one guy.
The Senators' website posted MacLean's media availability:
The Ottawa Citizen's Allen Panzeri reports that the Senators had a rough practice after a disappointing loss...
The Ottawa Senators on Monday had one of their longer practices in some time: 82 minutes. It was especially heavy on skating — back and forth, back and forth — which might have been expected after Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and a day off on Sunday.
The players accepted it as a traditional Monday “work” day.
“When you get three days in between (games) with a day off, I think you have to work, you have to have a work day,” captain Jason Spezza said. “I think if we won that game (on Saturday), we would have had the same practice. I think maybe (coach Paul MacLean) barked a little more because we lost that game, but today has to be a work day, and we’ve always had Mondays as a work day, primarily.”
MacLean said he wasn’t trying to send a message with a session so long and intense, though he did said that how the team was playing at a particular time usually dictated how long these work days lasted. This time, he said, there were things that Senators players needed to work on.
“We just tried to be the coach and make sure that we did things right,” MacLean said.
No one player on the Senators is more keenly in tune with those emotions than Erik Karlsson, the young Swede who moved into the Alfredsson home as a rookie, babysitting and playing games with the Alfredsson children.
“It might be a little bit weird before and after (the game) to see him,” Karlsson says. “Once the game starts, it’s not going to be on everyone’s mind, it’s going to be like a regular game.”
Karlsson can’t wait to see Alfredsson, wife Bibi and their four boys: Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William. He will have dinner with them and share stories about life in Ottawa and Detroit. As much as it’s expected the Senators and their fans soldier on, stiff upper lip, etc., Karlsson doesn’t mind expressing his honest feeling things aren’t the same here without No. 11.
“It’s different,” Karlsson says. “He has been here as long as I’ve been here and even longer than that. It’s going well. I’m still a happy guy, although I miss him.”
As Karlsson says, not many players in the league stay with one club for 18 years, venture to a Stanley Cup final, then another string of seasons trying to get back. Alfredsson, trying to say the right thing, mentioned having a chance to win a Cup with Detroit, but I didn’t hear one Senators player mention that Monday. They know, as we all do, this was a business negotiation that went wrong, causing Alfredsson to exercise his right to a free-agent deal with the Red Wings.
“Whatever decision he wanted to make, I think everybody should support him,” Karlsson says. “That’s what I’ve been doing. Even though it sucks, I want him to play here. At the same time, I’m very happy for him. He’s doing well. I know he likes it there. It’s different for him.”
“They’re a good team,” said Chris Neil, who admitted it will be strange seeing his former captain wearing the winged wheel in Detroit, where Alfredsson has been scoring at a point-a-game clip.
“It’ll be a little weird, obviously to see him on a another team, but I think that’s behind us. It’s no different than any other game, we’ve got to go in and work hard. Obviously if we’re not ready to go they’re a good team and they’re going to make you pay, so we can’t be taking as many penalties as we have been. That’s something we have to clamp down on in this locker room.”
Neil, whose first goal of the season accounted for all of the Senators’ offence in Saturday’s 3-1 home loss to the Oilers, said the team can take a lesson from their recent western road swing in the style of hockey they’ll need to compete with their new Atlantic Division neighbours.
“Coming from that western swing, teams like San Jose and Anaheim, they get second and third chances at the net and that’s something we as a team have to get better at,” said Neil.
“We said between periods (Saturday) it wasn’t going to be a pretty one that goes in, and that was a prime example of a dirty goal, going to the net and you get rewarded. We just didn’t do enough of that... We just have to get more traffic there and we’ll get more dirty goals.”
The Senators know that Alfredsson's return to Canada's capital on December 1st will be more difficult for him, as new Senators captain Jason Spezza told the MetroNews's Trevor Greenway...
Alfredsson left the Senators under free agency this summer and signed with the Red Wings after an 18-year career in Ottawa. Although it will be an emotional reunion when they face the Red Wings, Spezza and company will be focused on one thing: winning.
“I think it will be harder for him playing against Ottawa because it’s the only place he’s ever played,” Spezza told reporters after a morning skate Monday.
Alfredsson’s departure shocked the Ottawa hockey world, but Spezza said he won’t forget what the former captain did for hockey in the nation’s capital.
“If you agreed or didn’t agree as a fan, you still have to respect his time here,” he said. “And as a player, it’s the same thing, if you agree or didn’t agree with his decision you still have to respect what he did with for team and the community and everything, so we will be happy to see him.”
If anyone will be emotional when the puck drops in Detroit, it will be Senator’s defenceman Erik Karlsson. Karlsson and Alfredsson are both from Sweden and became good friends throughout the years they spent in Ottawa. Karlsson said he hopes to link up with his old pal in Detroit to, “share a few stories.”
“Everybody should support him, that’s what I’ve been doing, even though it sucks, I want him to play here, but at the same time, I’m very happy for him,” said Karlsson.
And the Canadian Press's Lisa Wallace:
“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.”
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.”
Update: Via RedWingsFeed, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch did his Senators-Wings drama mamma...
With a national audience tuning in on TSN, the Senators will take on their former captain for the first time since Alfredsson signed with the Wings as a UFA on July 5 in what turned out to be a messy divorce. Yes, they understand this isn’t just any game.
“Once we’ve played each other a few times it will become a little more normal,” admitted captain Jason Spezza on Monday. “(It) will be (weird) more so for (Alfredsson). You’re used to seeing one guy move on and play a different team and play against teammates he played with. It will be different because it’s Alfie, but I think it will be harder for him because he’s playing against Ottawa and because it’s the only place he ever played.”
People have had this date circled since the NHL schedule was released in July. It garnered more notice in August when Alfredsson, who signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal in Detroit, accused the Senators of botching contract talks.
Alfredsson said the club didn’t live up to a promise to compensate him for playing last season at $1 million. That caused a war of words that included owner Eugene Melnyk, GM Bryan Murray and agent J.P. Barry.
The players swear that’s all in the past.
“It’s going to be exciting for sure,” said winger Chris Neil. “At first, probably (it will be weird). We’re all professionals over here. At the end of the day, he’s just on another team. It’s not like he’s not a friend. 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.”
Neil said he might even give Alfredsson a little shot if he gets a chance.
“It’s no different than playing other friends on other teams,” said Neil. “It comes with the territory when you play. You go out, you play hard, you play clean and if you’re able to finish checks on (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Pavel) Datsyuk or Alfredsson, it is what it is. They are skilled players. You have to take away time and space.”
“We all have our first, so I think it’s more on Daniel than it is on us. They have a good team, they have lots of good players, Daniel is one of them. Our focus is on the Red Wings and how they play as a team, not one guy.”
And he noted that Erik Karlsson wants to have dinner with his friend:
“I’ll be over (to his house) to see the family. It’s been awhile,” said Karlsson on Monday. “Hopefully, we get in (to Detroit) at a decent time. The (four) kids will be awake, we’ll have a good night and share a few stories.”
Karlsson admits life with the Senators isn’t the same without having Alfredsson around.
“It’s been very different, I think,” said Karlsson. “He’s been here as long as I’ve been here, and even longer than that as well. It’s just someone that you’re used to having around all the time. I think it’s going well. I’m still a happy guy. Even though I miss (Alfie), we’re still talking once in awhile.”
Karlsson said people should respect Alfredsson’s decision, and he didn’t like the mud-slinging that went on.
“There’s not a lot of guys who have (played 17 years and went to a Stanley Cup final) for one organization,” said Karlsson. “Whatever decision he wanted to make, I think everybody should support him. That’s what I’ve been doing. Even though it sucks, and I want him to play here. At the same time, I’m very happy for him, and I know he likes it in Detroit.”
Karlsson’s role hasn’t changed without Alfredsson. After returning from a severed Achilles tendon, Karlsson is back to being the club’s top blueliner with an average of 27:46 per-game. That places him third in the league behind Minny D Ryan Suter at 29:22 and Calgary’s Dennis Wideman at 28:07.
“I like it. I think it’s good. That’s what I want to do,” said Karlsson. “If I can do that, I will be more than happy. Our coaching staff is really good at knowing when to play me and when not to. They’re not over-playing or under-playing me.”
Update #3: The Ottawa Citizen's Ian Mendes took note of Alfredsson's Senators records and the contenders for tying or besting them.
Goals scored: 426
Nobody is even close to Alfredsson on the all-time goals list in franchise history. Jason Spezza just passed Alexei Yashin and yet he is still almost 200 goals behind Alfredsson. Health issues have been a concern for Spezza, but, in his last full season in the NHL, 2011-12, he tied a career high with 34 goals. Spezza, who is not considered a goal scorer, would need 194 more goals with the Senators to pass Alfredsson’s mark. That translates to an average of 25 goals a year for eight seasons to set the new franchise record and that might be a tall order for Spezza, considering he turned 30 this summer. While Bobby Ryan is off to a fast start with four goals in his first eight games with the Senators, he would need to continue that torrid pace for another 11.5 seasons to overtake Alfredsson.
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