|Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson skates during practice at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on January 5, 2011. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)
Daniel Alfredsson boarded the Senators’ charter to Atlanta Saturday afternoon, but he might only be along for the ride.
While the Senators’ captain has cleared the first hurdle to returning from a back injury that’s forced him to miss 21 games by resuming workouts and skating, he’s still not ready to resume practising.
Coach Cory Clouston suggested Friday there was a good possibility the 38-year-old forward could suit up on this three-game road trip. But his tune changed after Alfredsson skated for a half-hour at Scotiabank Place on Saturday.
“It’s a small chance he will play,” said Clouston. “It’s more likely he won’t play.”
Surgery hasn’t been ruled out. The Senators brass are giving Alfredsson a shot at playing again this season because they want him to have the chance to see how he feels going into the summer as part of his rehab.
If he has surgery, the recovery time is expected to be 4-to-6 weeks.
“They’ve been doing a lot of work strengthening and rehabbing certain areas, certain muscles,” said Clouston. “It’s kind of making sure he’s crossing all the ‘t’s’ and dotting all the ‘i’s’ and the first step is to know where he is physically.
“The first step is for him to practise with the team, then we’ll see how that goes. The next step is to have a physical practice where he’s getting some contact. He’s got to have some resistence. It’s one thing to skate, it’s another to have to push off and to take hits.
“It’s almost like a progression. Each day you’re upping the intensity, upping the physical play and then gauging where he is from there. We want to make sure we’ve covered all bases and exhausted all avenues before we do (surgery).”
That being said, the Senators are happy to have Alfredsson back with the team. His teammates haven’t seen the well-respected leader much since his last game on Feb. 7 against the Canucks.
“It’s always good to have him around,” said forward Nick Foligno. “He’s the captain of our team and the face of this franchise. He’s a big part of our team. It sucks not having him in the lineup, but just having him around will be great.
“He’ll enjoy just being with the guys. He’s kind of been alienated a little not being with us.”
Centre Jason Spezza, who has missed 20 games this season with groin and shoulder issues, said being injured can be lonely.
“When you’re hurt, you don’t feel like you’re part of the guys laughing and having a good time or knowing what’s going on,” said Spezza. “You are really in your own head when you’re hurt because you’re trying to heal up.
“You’re trying to get back and we’re good at playing games and following a routine, but when you’re not playing games or following a routine, you feel a little bit lost.”
Clouston said there is no guarantee Alfredsson will even practise with the team on the road trip, but at the very least he’ll get a chance to skate with backup goalie Curtis McElhinney.
“There’s a chance he may get on the ice in the next couple of practices,” said Clouston. “Right now, it’s just a matter of getting with the team first and continuing on with his rehab. You may see him on the ice Monday.
“If not, a couple of days after that. Right now, we’re not doing pre-game skates, so he’ll get a chance to get on the ice with the backup goalie.”