Alfredsson to rescue?

CHRIS STEVENSON, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

The Senators had the baggage of a two-game losing streak in the hold when they jetted off to Columbus last evening where they will face the Blue Jackets tonight.

In an encouraging sign, they also had captain Daniel Alfredsson in a seat.

After yesterday afternoon's 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place, the Senators have their first back-to-back losses in almost a month, both of them coming since Alfredsson went out of the lineup with a hip injury Tuesday on Long Island.

The offence has sputtered since, managing just three goals in the two games, though Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding yesterday while making 34 saves.

LINE SHUFFLING

It's not known if or when Alfredsson, who is listed as day-to-day, will play on this eight-day, four-game trip, but his presence indicates there's a pretty good chance he will.

The Senators could use him.

Before he was hurt, the Senators had three strong, balanced lines supplying offence.

His absence has forced some line shuffling with Patrick Eaves being moved off a line with Mike Fisher and Chris Neil to take Alfredsson's spot with Peter Schaefer and Antoine Vermette.

"We certainly miss him," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "You take Alfredsson out of the lineup and you have to shift Eaves to fill a need and that affects Fisher's line. The chemistry on the lines is just not there and we just couldn't find a way to score."

While Alfredsson could play soon, star defenceman Wade Redden was left behind with a chest/shoulder injury.

"You take your two best players out of the lineup and two of the best in the league and it's going to hurt," said Senators centre Jason Spezza, who scored Ottawa's only goal yesterday, tipping a shot by Christoph Schubert by Lundqvist to make it 2-1 at 15:46 of the third period to get the crowd of 19,192 into the game.

"Missing Reds and Alfie is a big deal. You put them on any other club and it's going to make (that club) better. You take them off ours and it really hurts us."

The Senators, coming off a 6-2 loss to the Capitals in Washington on Wednesday, saw the Rangers open the scoring late in the first period yesterday on a play only the likes of NHL leading scorer Jaromir Jagr can make.

With the Rangers on a 5-on-3 advantage, Jagr knifed a hard pass from the corner through the goalmouth to Martin Straka at the far side and he did well to snap the rocket into the net at 17:02.

Jagr made it 2-0 at 6:07 of the second, drifting across the slot and then snapping a shot to the back top corner behind Senators goaltender Ray Emery.

After Spezza narrowed the gap, Dany Heatley, Ottawa's leading goal scorer, had a breakaway with a chance to tie the game, but Lundqvist made a brilliant glove save, stopped Spezza on the rebound and also turned back winger Chris Kelly off a scramble that saw the puck wind up on top of the net.

Lundqvist has been uncanny on breakaways this year.

Though he gave up a penalty-shot goal to Pittsburgh's Nils Ekman on Thursday, he's has stopped all 22 shots he's faced in shootouts this season.

"You've got to tip your hat to Lundqvist," said Spezza. "He played a pretty good game. He made some big saves and we hit him a bunch of times. I don't know if he saw the puck, but that's what will happen when goalies are going well."

Ageless veteran Brendan Shanahan, 37, scored the Rangers' third goal into an empty net to ice the win with 14 seconds left in the game. It was his league-leading 22nd goal of the season.

Martin Gerber will get the call to start in goal for the Senators tonight in Columbus.


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