Alfie knows there's a formula to history

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

A straight-faced Daniel Alfredsson says that yes, he realizes the historical importance of April 13 and no, we're not referring to the fact that it marks Ottawa's final home game of the 2005-06 season.

Other than local sports historian Jim McAuley and probably trivia expert Liam Maguire, put your hand up if you too noticed it was 79 years ago today that the Senators won their last Stanley Cup, defeating the Boston Bruins 3-1 at the Auditorium with the help of goals by Cy Denneny (a pair) and Frank Finnigan.

"I knew that," Mr. Senator insisted after yesterday's practice, prompting more post-season-related questions.

Like, should Ottawa be regarded as the team to beat when it begins its next playoff march, likely in eight days at Scotiabank Place?

Even getting Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden back in the lineup Tuesday, the Senators needed overtime to squeak by the 13th-place Bruins. By winning just one of their last five games and three of their past 10, are the Senators really playing poorly or are they simply lulling the rest of the league into a false sense of hope?

"Not intentionally," Alfredsson said, smiling.

"Overall, it was great to find a way to win (Tuesday)," he added. "You can always look at the wrongs, but I like to look at the positive.

"Right now, Detroit has to be considered the favourite, but it can change so quick. There's always first-round upsets ... there isn't a thing where, if you win your last five games and you do this and do that, you're going to win in the playoffs. No one will know until late June who had the right formula (this season).

"For us, getting guys back, it's looking positive going into the first round."

While they are likely to face either Montreal or Tampa in the opening best-of-seven, the Senators can ensure themselves home-ice advantage through to the East final by taking their last three games, starting with tonight's Scotiabank Place visit by Jacques Martin's Florida Panthers.

COULD END LEAFS' YEAR

And before ending the regular season in New York vs. the Rangers on Tuesday, they can effectively squash Toronto's last hopes of slipping into the playoffs through the back door -- if they're not already toast by the time the Battle of Ontario picks up again at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

"Definitely," Wade Redden said when asked if there would be added satisfaction in effectively eliminating the Leafs from playoff contention on the last weekend of the regular season. "We're not about to make it easy for them, especially now, with them pushing to get in. We've played well against them this year (7-0) and we want to continue that and try to get the (season) sweep.

"But I don't think right now we should be worried about winning or losing. We have to be focused and ready to play in the playoffs."

A boost like the one received by the return of Chara and Redden is on its way. Winger Martin Havlat, out since Nov. 29 with a shoulder injury, is expected to play Saturday -- if not the remote possibility he could suit up tonight.

"It's not my decision, it's the doctor's decision and (GM) John Muckler's decision," Havlat reiterated after practice. "If it was up to me I would have been playing last month.

"I don't know about (tonight) yet, but probably Saturday."

NO WORD ON HASEK

Dominik Hasek practiced with the team again yesterday, but coach Bryan Murray still isn't sure when his goalie will be back.

"I don't think so," Murray said when asked about the possibility of Hasek dressing tonight. "But I haven't talked to him yet about how he felt out there."

Ray Emery, who was bothered by a sore hip, is expected to be between the pipes tonight. After playing so well in Hasek's absence, Emery is still riding a personal four-game losing streak, as Mike Morrison was in goal for the victory over Boston.

"In two of those games I thought we played pretty hard and that maybe we should have been rewarded," said Murray, obviously relieved to be getting players back.

"I think this team will feel better about itself going forward."


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