Alfie not ribbing Sens

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Daniel Alfredsson said he has almost no worries when it comes to returning from the cracked rib that's kept him out of the Senators' last four games.

Well, he has one.

"Standing in front of the net when 'Z' has the puck," said the Senators captain. Big Ottawa defenceman Zdeno Chara, who might have the heaviest shot in the league, broke a rib on Alfredsson's right side 11 days ago, cranking him in a game against the New York Islanders.

Barring any setbacks, Alfredsson said he thinks he will be ready to go tonight when the Senators host the Wayne Gretzky-coached Phoenix Coyotes.

"I feel almost 100%," said Alfredsson after practising with the Senators yesterday. "Hopefully it will still be good (this) morning and if it is, I'll be good to go."

SPEZZA AIMS FOR THURSDAY

"(Alfredsson)'s a pretty tough cookie," said Senators centre Jason Spezza, who skated yesterday as well, but is shooting for Thursday as a more realistic return date. He's been out for eight of the last nine games with a pulled chest muscle.

"I want to play, but it's not quite ready yet. There's some things I can't do without being pain-free. I didn't expect it to be this long off the hop. This is longest I've been out with an injury and it's frustrating."

The Senators, who hit the halfway point of their season tonight, have been wincing without two-thirds of their top line. Without Alfredsson in the lineup, who was their leading scorer when he went down, what had been the highest-scoring team in the league managed just nine goals in four games. The power play is 0-for-24 in those four games.

"He said a couple of days after it was not bad and I thought at that point you have to have faith he'd be back in a short time," said Chara. "He's our captain and our leader and you're going to miss a guy like that. He logs a lot of minutes and he makes a lot of important decisions on the ice."

Senators coach Bryan Murray obviously likes what Alfredsson supplies in the way of production, but, just as importantly, the way he supplies it.

"He is a real competitive guy and just being in the room and on the ice in certain situations is a big difference for our team," he said. "He puts a big effort into every game."


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