Alfie leading by example

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

Captain Daniel Alfredsson led the charge when the Senators stormed into last spring's Stanley Cup final.

He'd like to do it again, but as Ottawa opens the season tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, Alfredsson knows it won't be easy.

"We know how tough it was to get there and how tough it is to get back," Alfredsson said.

There were plenty of heroes during the club's long playoff run, but none were bigger or better than Alfredsson. The likes of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Ray Emery had their moments during series wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres, but nobody contributed more than The Captain.

"We came close last year," Alfredsson said. "We want to get back."

While there's been criticism that Alfredsson isn't vocal enough to be a team leader, he's proven to be a tremendous leader on the ice, whether it's with a big goal, a smart play or a hit that can turn a game around. And it seems his vocal skills may be a bit underrated.

"He'll step up when something needs to be said," said Senators winger Chris Neil. "In the (2006) playoffs, I took a bad penalty and he let me have it between periods. I'll always remember the words coming across the room. Alfredsson made it very clear to me what I had to do. That's why he is such a role model for the team."

It was appropriate that Alfredsson scored the overtime winner in Game 5 against the Sabres as the Senators won the Eastern Conference championship and moved into the Cup final for the first time in the team's modern-day history.

Alfredsson isn't just a special player, he's a special person.

"When you get to know Daniel Alfredsson, you realize what a quality person he is," said Senators GM Bryan Murray. "During my career, I've been fortunate to work with a number of the top players like Steve Yzerman and Paul Kariya.

'CARES SO MUCH'

"I always respected a player like Daniel Alfredsson, but I didn't really know him until I got here and you realize what a quality individual he is and how much he cares about this team. He cares so much that I think sometimes he tries to do too much and thats one thing we've talked about. He doesn't have to put so much pressure on himself."

The Senators aren't sure where they're going to use Alfredsson this year.

Coach John Paddock has been using Patrick Eaves on the right side with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, but admits "Alfredsson is the perfect guy for that spot because they do things so well together."

The Senators will likely start the season with Alfredsson playing alongside Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette. While Alfredsson could probably get more points with Heatley and Spezza, he'll get the chance with them on power plays. And Alfredsson says he's a fan of Fisher.

"I've played with (Fisher) before and he's such a talented player. I like playing with him. It's obviously a different game with Fisher and Vermette, but I think we can have success," Alfredsson said.

DANIEL ALFREDSSON

Age: 34

Born: Dec. 11, 1972, Gothenburg, Sweden

Position: Right wing

Shoots: Right

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 205 pounds

Experience: 12th season in Ottawa and NHL

Drafted: Ottawa's second pick of sixth round (133rd overall) in 1994

Career notes: NHL all-rookie team (1996), Calder Memorial Trophy (1996), NHL second all-star team (2006), played in NHL all-star game (1996, 1997, 1998,2004)

NHL numbers: Regular season -- 291 goals and 467 assists in 783 games. Playoffs -- 43 goals and 37 assists in 99 games


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