Alfie helps ring Habs' Bell

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Call it his prescription for pain. His own Ibuprofen, if you will.

Nothing like the prospect of playing at the Bell Centre to make a guy's back feel better in a hurry, eh Alfie?

"Except for (Scotiabank Place) for us, it probably has the best atmosphere in the league," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said after an hour-long, on-ice test of his ailing back yesterday morning. "You're not going to have more adrenalin anywhere else.

"I don't know if it's going to factor into my decision, but it's a place I love to play."

Sure enough, Alfredsson recovered sufficiently to climb down from the injured shelf on which he had spent the previous four games to suit up against the Habs in last night's first-place dance.

And sure enough, he padded his point totals against a team he picks on like no other.

GM/coach Bryan Murray swayed from logic, removing Alfredsson from Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and a unit that racked up 15 points in a 6-1 victory over Montreal a little over a month ago. On this night, Alfredsson was placed alongside Mike Fisher and Cory Stillman on what looks like the Senators' best second line in years.

Alfredsson flew out of the gate and, once again, responded to the sound often flips his switch: Booing.

Two seconds after the Habs faithful started to let Alfredsson have it, the captain made a pass to the point, where Cory Stillman relayed it toward the net. On the way, Spezza performed another magical act with his stick, deflecting the puck between his own legs and into the top corner by Carey Price.

It was Alfredsson's 83rd point in his 62nd career game against Montreal.

If his back was giving him even minimal discomfort at the time, that assist had to serve as another pill for relief.

STARTS AND STOPS

The best-case scenario is for Murray, the fourth-winningest coach in NHL history, to remain behind the Senators bench beyond this season. If he doesn't, the names at or near the top of his list of successors this time should include former Maple Leafs boss Pat Quinn, Maple Leafs draft pick (12th round, 237th overall, 1988) and current Kitchener Rangers coach Peter Deboer and former Maple Leafs shot-caller Pat Burns .... Turning in a strong game, particularly on the penalty kill, was Antoine Vermette. How much did he and new French Connection mate Martin Lapointe enjoy Vermette's goal, in the corner of that suddenly quiet rink, eh? ... Shean Donovan is snakebitten. He was stopped on a first-period breakaway and again on a partial break in the second as his goal-less drought extended to 30 games ... An idea that is starting to work nicely: Cory Stillman playing the point on the power play. He was doing a lot of good things out there even when he wasn't assisting on a couple of man-advantage goals.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Brian Lee has felt no discouragement spending the season in Binghamton, while other prospects around him have been summoned for a look by the big club. "I'm happy for the guys that come up here," said the Senators' first-round pick, ninth overall, in the 2005 NHL entry draft. "We're a close team down there and whenever somebody gets the call, everybody's giving them congratulations, shaking their hand and wishing them luck." Now, bad luck appears to be turning into a positive for the 20-year-old defenceman. Lee, who has missed the past 12 games with a bone bruise on his ankle from blocking a shot, is close to making a return. When he does, it could very well be with Ottawa. Depending on their situation in the standings, the Senators are likely to activate Lee during the final 10 games. "I wanted to be here this year, since this year didn't really work out, then yeah, next year becomes the year," Lee, who has three goals, 22 assists and 51 penalty minutes in his first year of pro, said earlier this week at Scotiabank Place -- unaware the Senators might give him a look over the next couple of weeks. "But that's not up to me really. It's been a fun year in Binghamton, I got to play in the all-star game and I've really learned a lot down there and feel I've progressed along the curve. I feel it's been very beneficial down there and hope it'll help me out in the long run."

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMM...

Overheard a group of Senators watching the Brier on TV in the training room at Bell Centre. Detected some whoopin-it-up for Team Ontario, too. "That's the way we roll," chimed Toronto native Chris Kelly ... If you didn't see the Habs any time other than when they were playing Ottawa, you wouldn't believe their position in the standings. "We know we can skate with them, we know we can play with them," said Montreal winger Michael Ryder. "It just seems we can't put that game on the table when we play them." ... Habs coach Guy Carbonneau, reflecting on the 6-1 loss to the Senators in their prior meeting: "We were really playing well, we were on top of our game," he said. "And they kicked is in the ass." ... Grilled a Habs fan who didn't know the answer to this: What year and against whom did the Canadiens win their first Stanley Cup? If you said 1916 and the Portland Rosebuds, you sir, are correct ... Best save by Martin Gerber through two periods had to be the right pad stop off Alex Kovalev 13 minutes in. And even it didn't appear overly difficult.


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