Alfredsson to return

Daniel Alfredsson skates up ice during Ottawa Senators' training camp at the Bell Sensplex...

Daniel Alfredsson skates up ice during Ottawa Senators' training camp at the Bell Sensplex September 17, 2011. (DARREN BROWN/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 PM ET

OTTAWA - Daniel Alfredsson and his balky back are ready for the next test.

The Senators captain, who has looked good during scrimmages at training camp, will take a major step in his recover from back surgery Friday night when he plays his first pre-season game against the Canadiens at Scotiabank Place.

After a summer during which the 38-year-old thought he might be forced into retirement, Alfredsson is excited to suit up for his first game since he pulled himself out of the lineup following a game Feb. 7 against the Canucks.

Things are going well, so the next step is playing a game, Alfredsson said Thursday.

Alfredsson, who hasnt played in 227 days, admitted he wasnt sure what kind of shape his back was in before camp started. He wasnt feeling 100% when he last spoke about the injury at the clubs golf tournament a week ago.

I was (cautious), said Alfredsson. I didnt feel as good as I would like to have felt going into camp. Ive been feeling good in camp. Ive been able to go through all the skates without any problems, so its been good.

(The) scrimmages, battling drills in practice and lots of skating as we have been doing, to be able to hold up more than one or two or three days in a row ... Thats a good sign.

Coach Paul MacLean said Alfredsson has been strong.

He told me before training camp he would pick up the intensity as he goes along (depending) on how he (felt), said MacLean. He felt really good coming into training camp and I think hes gotten better every day.

We said before training camp that were going to be cautious about when he plays and make sure that he gets good skating in before he plays. We didnt want to put him in before he was ready to play. Hes ready to play. Hes been very good in practice, hes shown great leadership and why hes the captain of the team. Every day hes been there doing it right.

MacLean said he has been one of the best players throughout the first week.

I know hes a good player, said MacLean. You can see in practice he has great poise with the puck, he can skate and I think hes second to none on this team.

He really is the pulse of the team. As he goes the team goes and thats a great player to have as a coach. Hes a guy that you can depend on every day.

Alfredsson will play three exhibition games. He wont play back-to-back games, so he wont suit up Saturday vs. the Habs in Montreal. Hell either play Monday vs. Winnipeg in St. Johns or Tuesday vs. Toronto at home.

Its another step going into an exhibition game, but I dont see it as a problem, said Alfredsson. (This is) fun. Its one thing to score in practice or making things happen. Its fun when theres fans in the stands.

You want to play against the best. Its just an exhibition game. Im not going to try to do too much. Im going to play smart and work myself into the pace of the game.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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