SUNRISE, FLA. - Usually when hockey players talk about “playing guilty,” they’re referring to their participation in a game following a night they stayed out way too late.
But Daniel Alfredsson’s guilt Wednesday in Florida was quite the opposite.
“I always feel guilty when I hear his name,” Alfredsson said when asked about Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, who was his teammate in Ottawa for the 1999-2000 season. “He’s an outdoorsman, too, and we set up a hunting trip. He was up at 4 a.m., I think, and I slept in. We ended up not going. So I always feel guilty when I hear his name.”
Has he forgiven you?
“Probably not,” chuckled Alfredsson.
Also making him laugh was the memory of what he calls one of the funniest moments in his NHL career, which also involved Dineen.
“We were playing in New Jersey and he was celebrating a goal,” said Alfredsson. “It looked like it went in because it hit the mesh, but it hit the side of the net. He’s celebrating and they go down on a rush to the other end.
“We all thought it was a goal. From where I was too. But it just hit the side of the net and died there.”
It was a pair of rookie coaches facing off against each other when the Panthers and Senators squared off a few hours later. Asked before the game if he thought Dineen was largely responsible for the Panthers’ surprising success thus far, Ottawa’s Paul MacLean played down the importance of the job.
“I think he’s just like me. He’s just trying to stay out of the way,” said MacLean. “Make sure that things get done the right way, but let the players play.”
Dineen and MacLean are similar in that they are both ex-players, and as such know how to treat those working for them now. They know how to coach.
How smart was it for MacLean to actually invite the fathers of his players into the dressing room for the pre-game speech prior to Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Tampa? If the players ever have any complaints about MacLean now, they’ll be wasting their breath telling dad.
“I just thought it was a great opportunity for the dads to really see what their players have to go through when it comes to getting prepared for a game, and the detail that goes into it,” MacLean said. “It’s not just put your skates on, tape a stick and go out and play. There’s a lot more work involved in the preparation part of playing in the NHL.”
Dineen, meanwhile, made a coaching error Wednesday. After the morning skate, he said it was the first time in a long while that he had a tough decision choosing his starting goalie.
He wound up picking the one that’s not a starter.
STARTS AND STOPS
The Senators’ first goal was scored by their first pick in 2007 (Jim O’Brien) with assists going to their first pick in 2006 (Nick Foligno) and first pick in 2005 (Brian Lee). The stars aligned, sort of .... Their first pick of 2009 (Jared Cowen) delivered the biggest hit of the night when he crushed Mike Santorelli outside the Ottawa blue line on the first shift after the Panthers had tied the game.
STUFF I THINK I THUNK
Erik Gudbranson has a great life and he knows it. “Playing in the NHL,” said the Panthers rookie defenceman, a native of Orleans, when asked what’s the best thing about playing in the NHL. “It’s unbelievable. Literally a dream come true. I know it sounds cheesy, but every kid watched it growing up and every kid still wants to be in this league. It’s an absolute honour for me to be here and play with the best. I’m enjoying myself.” Gudbranson, the third pick overall in 2010, entered Wednesday’s game playing his best hockey as a pro. He also has a fresh new look, as he recently had his long hair shaved off for charity. His home life is pretty good, too. “I live with (teammates) Jason Garrison and Mike Santorelli,” said the 20-year-old. “We’re on the second hole of Eagle Trace. Not too many players in the NHL can say they live on a golf course.” Just a great life ... Gudbranson sits in a stall next to Brian Campbell in the Panthers room. He used to go watch Campbell when the latter was a 67’s star. What has he taught him? “Not the spin-o-rama, yet,” Gudbranson said ... Had to ask MacLean how he felt about the team he assistant coached for six years, the Red Wings, setting a new NHL record for consecutive home wins. “I was disappointed,” said MacLean. “I guess they haven’t missed me.” ... Currently up there with Carey Price, Pekka Rinne and Cam Ward for most minutes played, Craig Anderson will remain in contention for the title until the end. “Craig has a history of playing over 70 games and that’s what he’s going to play here this year,” said MacLean. “When he’s playing well we’re going to play him.”