Sens captain keeps the faith

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

A glance at his newest hockey card would show Daniel Alfredsson he's closing in on more impressive milestones as he nears his 37th birthday.

This season, the Senators captain can play his 1,000th NHL game (he’s 68 shy) and collect his 1,000th point (he needs 79). He also has a chance to get to 400 goals.

To achieve the latter, Alfredsson would need to have his best season ever, by two. Now, thinking a man his age could light the lamp 45 times in a single campaign might be absurd if that man wasn’t Alfredsson, who seems to get better with age and — in the minds of most who have followed his career closely — is more apt to bounce back from a 24-goal season than not.

As always, however, Alfredsson’s goals remain team-oriented. Asked if he’s had any thoughts of retirement, the trim Swede chuckled.

“I’ll take one year at a time,” said Alfredsson, who will be paid a team-high $9.1 million US this season in a front-loaded deal that expires June 30, 2013. “For a few more years, definitely.”

He won’t be playing to pad his totals, either.

Adding that he wouldn’t sign another contract after this one, Alfredsson is using for incentive a desire “to get this team in the right direction again, hopefully finish off with some really good years and being back in the playoffs, and fighting for the Stanley Cup.”

Does he truly believe he’ll have another legitimate shot at drinking from the coveted mug?

“If you get into the playoffs, you have a chance to go all the way,” said Alfredsson. “You might have a couple of teams going into the playoffs that you think, these two should meet in the conference finals, then there’s upsets. Look at Pittsburgh last year. Coaching change, are they going to make the playoffs, and then they win the Stanley Cup.

“I’m not saying that everybody has that chance, but if you get into the playoffs, your goal is to win. The tough challenge is just to get into the playoffs. It’s so competitive and it’s going to be a race for a lot of teams down to the last game again this year.”

Alfredsson believes all the parts are in place for a successful season. “I think we’ve got a solid group here that should be able to fight for a playoff spot and make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s obviously our goal, and when you’ve done that there’s only one goal left, and that’s to win, so yeah, I like our team.”

The Senators have been rife with talent over Alfredsson’s term. Dominik Hasek. Zdeno Chara. Wade Redden in his prime. Marian Hossa. Martin Havlat. Jason Spezza. Dany Heatley. And they still haven’t won it all.

Will it leave a blemish on the captain’s career if they never claim the Cup with No. 11 as their leader? The numbers would say it shouldn’t, for what they’re worth. In 101 playoff games, Alfredsson has 43 goals and 80 points.

The only time the Senators drove to the final in 2007, he was firmly at the wheel. After an 87-point season, he had 14 goals in 20 playoff games, including the overtime winner that landed Ottawa the Eastern Conference crown.

Alfredsson hears those who say the Senators won’t win with him or any other European wearing the ‘C’. He doesn’t agree, of course, but he hears them.

“I don’t tune it out,” said Alfredsson, who first wore the ‘C’ in 1999 and is now the league’s longest-serving captain. “I lead in the ways I believe in. It doesn’t change anything. I don’t think it matters what profession you are. There’s always critics and there should be. That’s what pushes you as well.”

In the meantime, Alfredsson will make one final push to the winner’s circle as he heads down the homestretch of his career.


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