Alfie is captain courageous

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

After all the ice he held on his knee Thanksgiving weekend, Daniel Alfredsson yesterday was able to put some under his feet.

The Senators captain took a positive and rather surprising step forward when he combined what his coach called a "hard" workout in the gym with a skate by himself on Scotiabank Place's slippery surface.

Alfredsson, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee last Friday, was originally expected to miss 10-14 days of action. But at a lunch briefing with the media, Craig Hartsburg refused to rule out No. 11's inclusion in this weekend's home games against Phoenix (Friday) and Boston (Saturday).

"I'm not sure at this point. I don't want to say yes or no," said Hartsburg, who has so far been without his best all-round player for only Saturday's 3-2 loss to Detroit. "We'll just see how he is (today). Every day he comes in and we evaluate how he's feeling, to see if there's pain, if there's swelling. And so far he's been pretty good."

Asked if he remembers a player bouncing back so quickly from a knee scope, Hartsburg chuckled.

"No," he said. "But a day or so after he had it, the swelling was the biggest concern. If there's no swelling, then you make progress very quickly.

"Again, I'm not a doctor or a trainer, but I think what they had to do in there wasn't real complicated, where they had to dig around and do all kinds of stuff."

With or without Alfredsson, the Senators clearly have a long way to go before they are considered legitimate first- place contenders. Against the defending champs, they were outshot 41-22. That is not a misleading stat -- the Red Wings dominated.

'IT'S ABOUT BEING A TEAM'

"I think it's about being a team," said Hartsburg. "It's not about not having Alfredsson or how we put the lines together. It's more about getting our team to play the way we want to play. I think we've made some progress, obviously, since training camp, but still, there are some big steps we've got to make.

"I don't think we're at the point yet where our game is real defined, real solid. When we get to the point where we're real confident and poised in our game ... for a short period of time, you should be able to get by without any player, really."

Meanwhile, Hartsburg did say that Martin Gerber would get the call in goal against the Coyotes, and that a decision on who will start Saturday would be made after the Phoenix game. If Gerber plays wells against Wayne Gretzky's team, Hartsburg admitted he might let him run with the ball for a bit. On the other hand, if he sees a lot of shots Friday or gives up another bad goal, it's almost certain Alex Auld will face his old friends from Boston.

And yes, Hartsburg is concerned about some of the shots that have beaten Gerber in his two starts.

"Martin played a really strong game and he made tons of saves and he gave us a chance to be in the hockey game," Hartsburg said of the loss to Detroit, which saw the goalie make 38 stops.

"Unfortunately for him and the team, there are questionable goals," said Hartsburg. "If we can get those goals out of his game and continue to compete the way he has the rest of the hockey game, he'll be great for us. But for a goaltender there are always questions when goals go in at questionable times and they look funny. Martin has to continue to work to get over that hump."


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