Alfie has plenty in tank

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Senators training camp doesn't officially start until this morning, but captain Daniel Alfredsson has already set the tone.

When the 35-year-old captain, one of the best players in the NHL night in and night out, says there's room for improvement in his game, the message is clear: That means more is expected from everybody on the roster.

It should be after the Senators imploded over the final months of the season last year and went out in four straight games to the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.

After feeling like his days in the NHL were numbered before the lockout, Alfredsson said yesterday he is feeling optimistic about where he can take his game this season.

NO LINGERING EFFECTS

There are no lingering effects from the questionable hit he took from Maple Leafs forward Mark Bell in the second-to-last game of the regular season that left him on the limp. Alfredsson missed the first two games of the opening round of the playoffs because of a knee injury.

"If I go back four or five years ago before the lockout, I had a couple of seasons where I was really disappointed with my own play. Frustrated. (I) didn't see a long future for myself in this league. Where I am now, I feel more excited than I have in a long time. (It's) still a lot of fun for me, I feel I'm getting better. Not tired," he said before the Senators teed off in their annual golf tournament to benefit CHEO at The Marshes.

"I feel I still, I hope I can improve and get better. You try to prepare yourself in the summer hoping the season ahead is the best you ever had. Obviously, if the team does well, it's a lot easier for the individuals to do well. We saw that early last year. I feel good."

While there doesn't seem to be much expected of the Senators in the Eastern Conference this season after last spring's meltdown, especially with the Penguins, Canadiens and Rangers being touted as the favourites in the East, Alfredsson isn't accepting lowered expectations for his team.

"We underachieved last year," said Alfredsson. "I think we are definitely a top-10 team in the league. Expectations should be higher on us."

Alfredsson's game -- like that of many of the league's highly skilled players -- benefited from the post-lockout emphasis on space, flow and quickness and the opportunity to play with creative centre Jason Spezza and finisher Dany Heatley. At an age when many players' games begin to show a decline, Alfredsson has averaged 93 points a season over the last three years, the most productive of his career.

LINEMATES UP IN THE AIR

"He seems to be getting better. I hope when I'm 35, I'm getting better like him," said centre Mike Fisher. "He works hard and he takes care of himself. He's such a smart player, he's been able to maintain his feats."

While there no questions about Alfredsson's resolve, the identity of his linemates remains to be seen. New Senators coach Craig Hartsburg is hoping, like Bryan Murray before him, to be in a position to spread the Senators offence around by having Alfredsson play with someone other than Spezza and Heatley.

"It's going to be different guys (who) are going to get a chance. We've played well with (Chris Kelly) at times," said Spezza. "It's a long season. You're going to play with lots of different guys."

The Senators will report for physicals and fitness testing this morning and will practise on the ice tomorrow.


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