Alfie finds his balance

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:29 PM ET

Monday morning brought more questions for Daniel Alfredsson about the longest slump of his NHL life. Only now, he was about to tie a new career drought: One more game would be his 13th in a row without a goal, matching the skid he took into the Christmas season a year ago (Dec. 1-23). Surely, Alfredsson had to be on the verge of snapping.

“That’s not the hardest part,” the Senators captain said of the constant queries. “The hardest part is when you analyze your own game. I’m my own toughest critic and obviously not the happiest person right now, but I feel pretty good. I just haven’t been able to make the most of the chances I’ve had. I’ve had more of late. It’s getting there. But at the same time I’m paid to score goals and make things happen offensively ...”

Alfredsson finally emerged from the fog at 18:31 of the second period against the Atlanta Thrashers. The captain’s goal was the first he’s scored since Nov. 17, but more importantly, the first by his team on a night nothing was going right for the Senators.

By solving the puzzle that was goalie Ondrej Pavelec, he opened the door for a dramatic third-period comeback that, for Ottawa, was a playoff game in December. Lose it and the Senators would fall nine points behind the eighth-place Thrashers. Chances of them making up such ground would be miniscule. By picking up one point, their chances are now just Little.

So why has Alfredsson struggled? Is he playing hurt?

“No, I’m good,” he said.

Is it an age thing? After all, he did turn 38 Saturday. Has Alfredsson lost a step?

“That’s not my problem,” he insisted. “I think my biggest issues are that I haven’t been as strong on the puck, generating chances coming from out of the corner, helping guys, finding them in the slot. Speed, or physical overall .. I can’t say that’s the reason.”

So what is it then? Alfredsson thinks his struggles can be at least partially blamed on his skates. This will not come as a ringing endorsement for the Mario Lemieux MLX brand, but he’s more comfortable back in his Bauer Vapor 60s.

“I switched skates mostly because the ones I were using (the MLX) were breaking down ... I was debating if I should use a new pair of the same (brand) or try my old ones,” he said. “I went back to my old ones (for the New Jersey game) and they felt good, so I’m sticking with them for now.”

How could skates make such a difference? Anything these guys are using are top quality, right?

“More just balance wise, on my skates, I haven’t been as good,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve gone back to my old ones.”

It’s a theory, and one Alfredsson is going with.

n Jason Spezza was already having a decent game before he was awarded a third-period penalty shot. With so much at stake, you wouldn’t have bet against him scoring. Alas, raise your hand if you’re surprised it was a Spezza turnover at the Atlanta blue line that led to the overtime winner ... Trying to track down Bryan Little on his extra period breakaway, Sergei Gonchar looked every bit like a 35-year old. And then some ... Biggest cheer through the first 38:30 went to Canada’s best pitcher ever. That’s right, Fergie Jenkins was in the house.

Things I Think I Think ...

And you thought it was tough driving in Sunday’s weather — landing was worse. When the Thrashers arrived in Ottawa around 1 p.m., there were some white knuckles on board. “It was pretty bumpy all the way in,” said D Brent Sopel. “The bumpiness was for about an hour. I didn’t find it scary, I don’t mind turbulence. But it just went on and on, until finally you were like, ‘Uncle. Enough’s enough.’ ” ... The Senators really need an Ondrej Pavelec. “It’s difficult at times to play goal for us,” said Craig Ramsay, Pavelec and the Thrashers’ coach, before the game. “We give up a lot of shots and chances. If he can make the big save, we can score some goals for you.” Pavelec made a few big saves before Jim Slater opened the scoring on a play that really should not have resulted in a goal. Ottawa led 9-2 on the shot clock at the time ... Bryan Little scored the goal, but Dustin (Big Buf) Byfuglien sure made the Senators look little (tyke-like, almost) the way he did a lap in their D-zone just before the visitors went up 2-zip.

Ryan's Review ...

And you thought it was tough driving in Sunday’s weather — landing was worse. When the Thrashers arrived in Ottawa around 1 p.m., there were some white knuckles on board. “It was pretty bumpy all the way in,” said D Brent Sopel. “The bumpiness was for about an hour. I didn’t find it scary, I don’t mind turbulence. But it just went on and on, until finally you were like, ‘Uncle. Enough’s enough.’ ” ... The Senators really need an Ondrej Pavelec. “It’s difficult at times to play goal for us,” said Craig Ramsay, Pavelec and the Thrashers’ coach, before the game. “We give up a lot of shots and chances. If he can make the big save, we can score some goals for you.” Pavelec made a few big saves before Jim Slater opened the scoring on a play that really should not have resulted in a goal. Ottawa led 9-2 on the shot clock at the time ... Bryan Little scored the goal, but Dustin (Big Buf) Byfuglien sure made the Senators look little (tyke-like, almost) the way he did a lap in their D-zone just before the visitors went up 2-zip.

C'est What? ...

“He needs to be more responsible defensively. Sometimes you get on that snowball and it just starts to spin the wrong way.” — Senators coach Cory Clouston on Sergei Gonchar, the $5.5-million US a year D-man who has a minus-16 rating.


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