OTTAWA - Only 364 days from his 40th birthday, Daniel Alfredsson is still one of the best players on the Senators.
He's tied for sixth in team scoring, but he has also played six fewer games than most everybody else because of a hip flexor and concussion. Of his 16 points, seven (two goals, five assists) have come in the past seven games -- or about the time veteran Nick Foligno became his centre.
In most of the previous 17 games, Alfredsson played with rookie Stephane Da Costa.
Alfredsson turned 39 Sunday and naturally spent the day at the rink — only this time it was with his family, for a kids Christmas party. Afterwards, he went home where his clan was joined by brother Henric and his wife. Birthday gifts included underwear, socks, a tie and "hot chocolate packages from the kids."
On Monday, it was back to work, then a flight to Buffalo, where Alfredsson scored his biggest goal -- the game winner to send the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup final.
With the better-than-expected play of this season's team, we were wondering if it has caused Alfredsson to rethink his future -- not that he has made any concrete decisions yet.
"No it hasn't," said Alfredsson. "I'm just enjoying this year, trying to do as good as I can, and for our team to do as well as we can. I think after the season, that's when I'll evaluate how I feel and how my body feels more than anything.
"See what happens after that."
Of his own game this season, Alfredsson isn't completely satisfied.
"It's been okay," he said. "I felt really good in the beginning. Then I think I struggled when I came back from my concussion. In the last week or so I feel my skating is getting better, feel like I'm getting around and getting in position a lot more. It's okay right now."
It's been good enough that he's still one of the best Senators.
DRAFT DAY IN DECEMBER
Alfredsson and Chris Phillips each made their first two picks for the Senators Dec. 28 skills competition. Team Phillips has defeated Team Alfredsson the past three years.
"It's been a good run and I have a few tricks up my sleeve again," Phillips said. "I guess I could kind of be called the Billy Beane of skills competitions. I kind of look inside hard at the task and it's paid off for me the last couple of years."
Like Beane, the shrewd GM of the Oakland A's and subject of Moneyball, the Phillips strategy could be called Money Puck.
"Yeah, but I'm not going to say that three times fast," said Phillips.
Said Alfredsson: "Usually I try to put the blame on everybody else, but three in a row I've got to look at myself in the mirror. I've done some research here and I'm going to do a better job of selecting my team."
Alfredsson had first pick overall and he took Jason Spezza.
"It's a skills competition, right? When you think skill, I go to Jason right away," said Alfredsson, who likes his team's chances this year. "He can do pretty much every competition ... there's a lot of passing and a lot of shooting. He's going to come out and get some points I think."
Spezza was beside himself — when he was beside Alfredsson.
"It's a huge honour," he said. "I'm nervous right now. Shocked really. I wish my family could be here to share this with me."
Phillips pulled out one of those tricks up his sleeve with his first pick.
"The last 10 minutes I've been really busy," he said. "I traded up to get the second pick. And with the second pick overall, we're pleased to announce Matt Carkner was the first pick of Team Phillips."
Unlike Spezza, Carkner wasn't surprised at all.
"Obviously he saw me last year in the fastest skating competition and he couldn't resist," said Carkner. "I'm really excited to be a part of this."
To be fair, Carkner did win the hardest shot competition last year.
"It's the only thing I'll ever beat Alfie in," he said.
Alfredsson took Erik Karlsson next. Why?
"He's Swedish," said Alfredsson.
Nick Foligno was Phillips' second pick.
"He was closest to (the door) and coming out for the media release here," explained Phillips.
Said Foligno: "I'm a little nervous, but I like our chances."
THIS AND THAT
It looks like the Senators may catch a break, as both Eastern Conference powerhouses about to visit Scotiabank Place could be doing so minus their captains. Zdeno Chara is expected to miss a week with a leg injury and Sidney Crosby is out indefinitely with more concussion-like symptoms ... Senators prospect Patrick Weircioch is still recovering in hospital after taking a slap shot in the throat last week. "There's nothing different. He's stable, he's obviously comfortable now," said GM Bryan Murray. "He's in Syracuse and he's being looked after by one of the best doctors in the business. We expect a full recovery." ... Senators assistant coach Mark Reeds will have a nasty shiner after being hit by a deflected puck just under the left eye at Monday's practice. "He has to have a baseline test tomorrow. See if he can pass it," joked Paul MacLean. "It's just a boo-boo. He'll be all right. It's a long way from his heart." ... Peter Regin played 12:29 in his first game back after a missing two months with a shoulder injury. He should expect a bigger workload going forward. "It feels good," he said. "Obviously, it's going to take a couple of days to get the timing back and everything. I've only played one game and it was a pretty fast game against Vancouver. It was a tough game to start, and that was the biggest challenge in the beginning, I felt. The speed and timing and the whole game ... it got better as the game went on, I thought." Regin was asked if he was worried about affecting the chemistry on a team that has so far exceeded expectations. "I think we have a good team and the guys have played great the last month," he said. "Hopefully I can help. Hopefully we won't get worse. That wouldn't be good. I'll do my best to try and help out."