Kelly could be Alfie's hero

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:42 AM ET

Senators 6, Rangers 2

It's never too early for Art Ross Trophy-race watching -- so long as you don't start before Christmas.

By picking up a goal and an assist in the 6-2 beating of the New York Strangers, Daniel Alfredsson moved to within three points of NHL scoring leader Jaromir Jagr, who was held to just one.

Earning an assist on Alfredsson's gap-narrowing was Chris Kelly, who continues to prove himself a surprising commodity on this Senators team.

Kelly held the high-flying Czech in check and also helped thwart New York's comeback chances with a tremendous hit on Jagr in the second period, a collision he later explained to be as much accidental as anything.

Jagr finished out the period but did not return for the third, later claiming a stiff neck from the neutral-zone crash.

"(Martin) Rucinsky passed him the puck and he was just kind of angling my way ... neither one of us had anywhere to go and we sort of ran into each other," said Kelly, who suffered a gash over the left eye. "I think I took the worst of it. He's a big boy."

Apparently, they fall harder.

Strangers coach Tom Renney says Jagr shouldn't miss any time with the neck problem, but who knows with Jagr. And if it does cost him a game and some points, Alfredsson might want to thank Kelly for the helper.

Starts and Stops:

Former 67's goalie (1994-95) Kevin Weekes entered the night with a career 0-7-4 won-loss-tie record and 4.43 GAA vs. the Senators, something we're assuming Renney didn't know when he started Weekes rather than impressive rookie Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes against Ottawa. After giving up four goals in 14:58, cool Kevin's GAA against the Sens is ballooning almost to the point where they'd know him as "91/2 Weekes." ... Mike Fisher delivered the pizza -- scoring Ottawa's sixth goal during the win to earn a free slice for all 19,806 in attendance who capitalize on the promotion -- but at least rolling the dough and sprinkling the cheese was Strangers D Darius Kasparaitis, who was guilty of a horrible turnover on the play ... Alfredsson says he'll try to become the first Swede to score 50 goals in the NHL this season, eclipsing the 49 Kent "Magic Man" Nilsson had with the Flames in 1980-81. We tried to tell him Hakan Loob had 50 with the Flames in 1987-88, but he says we should double-check our facts. Little does he know Magnus Arvedson used to grill us Ottawa sportswriters on Swedish hockey history all the time.

Punch Lines:

On Boxing Day in Ottawa, there were no fights. You can send a big ole "Humbug" Renney's way for that. Taking Colton Orr out of the lineup robbed fans a chance to see a rematch of the dandy scrap the former Bruin had with Brian McGrattan earlier this season ... Deep down he thinks there's nothing funny about it of course, but Bryan Murray did manage to venture on the light side when discussing Jason Spezza's pectoral injury yesterday morning. "It just bothers him when he's striding and backchecking, which is abnormal for him," chuckled Murray. Spezza confirmed the assessment. "It hurts most when I backcheck," he cracked. "I told (Murray) I won't be able to do it for the rest of the season." ... Style-brothers Anton Volchenkov and Kasparaitis look like they had the same barber in Russia. Also looks like the guy retired in 2004.

Between Periods:

A scoring change on Volchenkov's goal gave an assist to Dany Heatley and left Zdeno "Pull Up A" Chara with just two points in the first period. Otherwise, both he and Wade Redden would have had three points in the initial 20 minutes, which would have to be a first for a pair of Senators defenceman ... Antoine Vermette was given a penalty for closing his hand on the puck in the second period. The way he went up and got it, then came down with the thing, looks like he's watched a basketball game or two in his life .... The in-stands Newlywed Game was played by a couple that's been married for 13 years? No wonder they answered all the questions right ... D Chris Phillips played his 500th NHL game last night. He ranks fifth on the all-time Senators' list.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

Wireless Internet is available in the press boxes at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the Wachovia Centre in Philadelphia and even the creaky old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., for gawdsakes. At the Corel Centre in the heart of hi-tech Kanata? It's coming, we are told. And so is next Christmas ... Petr Prucha flashed the skills that have seen him now score 11 goals in 11 games this month when he darted out in from behind the net in front of Volchenkov and deftly beat Hasek with a quick shot off the far post.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

HOME STRIPES ADVANTAGE: Both of last night's linesmen -- Steve Barton and Derek Nanson -- hail from the Ottawa area. Looked like the refs did, too, as the Senators were given the first four power plays of the game. On the night, they were 3-of-6 with the man advantage, while the Rangers were 0-for-5 on the power play.

SAVE OF THE NIGHT: Henrik Lundqvist flashed the mitt to rob Daniel Alfredsson of his 24th goal of the season during a 2-on-1 in the second. "I know him and he knows me," Alfredsson said of the Rangers rookie, whom he played with for a half season during the NHL work stoppage. Good save Lundqvist made on you last night, Alfie? "Bad shot," the captain replied with a wink.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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