'It's not just one player'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Desperate times call for desperate measures.

And it might not get any more desperate than this.

Senators coach Bryan Murray might throw caution to the wind tonight in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-final -- a series Ottawa trails 2-0, with the next two games set for back-to-back nights at Buffalo's HSBC Arena.

With a must-win situation facing his team, Murray is toying with the idea of reuniting captain Daniel Alfredsson with former linemates Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. It's a trio that tore up the league for a good chunk of the regular season.

"That is a decision I'm going to make at game time," said Murray following the Senators' arrival here last night. "That's something I used late (in the third period of Monday's 2-1 loss in Game 2) and it's something I'm going to look at."

Alfredsson has been used with Bryan Smolinski and Patrick Eaves in the Senators' first eight playoff games, as Murray attempted to balance all three lines while putting a defensively proficient player alongside Spezza and Heatley.

But instead of putting up points, Alfredsson has struggled to be consistent, while Spezza and Heatley were also blanked as the club dropped two straight games at Scotiabank Place.

Asked yesterday if he thought rejoining Spezza and Heatley might get all three going offensively, Alfredsson replied matter of factly: "No."

Then again, what is Alfredsson supposed to say? He's a team player who's always done everything he can to help the Senators have success. The captain is the last guy who'll rock the boat in this situation.

Still, the numbers don't lie: Alfredsson has only one goal in these playoffs and that was into an empty net. In his last 22 playoff games, Alfredsson has just two goals. The club needs more production out of him. The Senators know it and he knows it.

But Murray did his best to deflect criticism away from his embattled captain yesterday. He maintained guys like Spezza, Heatley, Martin Havlat, Wade Redden, Chris Phillips and Zdeno Chara also have to be better if the Senators are going to get themselves out of this mess.

'NEED EVERYBODY'

"It's not just one player," said Murray. "I know (Alfredsson) is taking a lot of hits (yesterday), but we've said in the past that you need your top players to be your top players and you can't win without them. We don't just need one guy to step up, we need everybody to step up and that's the only way you're going to have success in the playoffs."

Alfredsson has been skewered for his performance in these playoffs. Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry had a field day with him after Game 2, claiming Alfredsson looks like he doesn't care.

Teams need their captain to take charge in the playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup because they were led by Steve Yzerman, and Joe Sakic has done the same with the Colorado Avalanche. It goes as far back as Maurice Richard leading the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s.

"Seriously, if they're going to go anywhere, Alfredsson has to get into it," said Cherry. "He's got to get interested ... He's the best player and he's not playing like the best player."

Everybody knows Alfredsson cares deeply about his team's success. Murray has watched tapes of past Senators playoff losses, and said he believes Alfredsson gets into trouble by trying to do too much and that might be the case here.

"Nobody puts more pressure on me to perform than I put on myself," said Alfredsson.

"I'm pretty happy with the way I played (Tuesday), but I know that I have to play better."

The time is now for Alfredsson and the Senators to step it up.

It really could be now or never.


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