Alfie's still young at heart

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

He was already an NHLer, and a good one, two months after Sidney Crosby's eighth birthday.

He was scoring on the world's best goalies when Evgeni Malkin was playing atom hockey in Russia.

He was winning the Calder Trophy when Jordan Staal was bringing home his final Grade 2 report card.

He was a veteran of 150 games before Marc-Andre Fleury hit puberty.

Feeling kinda old these days, Daniel Alfredsson?

"I'm 22, it feels like. In my head anyway," the Senators captain said on the eve of his 80th NHL playoff game, against a bunch of Pittsburgh Penguins about to play their first. "I feel so much better than I did last year at this time, obviously, because of the Olympics and all the travel. The schedule last year was much more compressed.

"I feel more rested than ever."

The 34-year-old Alfredsson is also playing as well, if not better, than ever. With 29 goals and 58 assists, he is coming off his second best season, points wise.

He's a key member of Ottawa's power-play and penalty-killing units. He is the undisputed team leader and its best all-round performer.

And he eats up minutes the way a little boy devours his Easter chocolates.

Alfredsson averaged 21:34 per game this season, more than any other Senators forward. Only Wade Redden (22:54), Chris Phillips (22:21) and Andrej Meszaros (21:40) saw as much ice.

Only two Penguins played as much -- Sergei Gonchar (26:33) and Ryan Whitney (23:56).

Crosby led all Pittsburgh forwards at 20:45.

Meanwhile, Alfredsson's Fountain of Youth is in the Senators' dressing room.

"Being a hockey player, that's the best thing, probably," he said of the camaraderie he shares with teammates. "When you retire, that's what you're going to miss the most. Being around all the innocent, and clueless at times, young guys. It brings a different perspective to you. It keeps you young as well.

"All the practical jokes ... we're pretty lucky, we make a lot of money, but at the same time the atmosphere that's in the locker room, what happens when you mix the older and younger guys ... from all over the world, too. It's pretty cool."

For the Senators to outlast this kiddy corps from Pittsburgh, Alfredsson will have to be better than players 15 years younger than him. For Ottawa to have an extended playoff run, he will need a second wind that was every bit as good as his first.

"Age isn't a factor here," said coach Bryan Murray, who also corrected a popular misconception by pointing out that the Senators (average: 27.3 years old) are actually younger than the Penguins (27.8 years old).

"It comes down to ability and poise and discipline ... and which team's good players play the best."

Either way, Alfredsson appears to be in good shape to produce.

THIS AND THAT: Mike Fisher is among the Senators who knows he has to start taking his game to another level in the post-season. In five years, he has played in 49 playoff contests, scoring just seven goals and six assists. "The feeling of losing drives you, the things you could have done," said Fisher. "When you lose, the first thing is you want another shot. You want to get right back at 'er. We're here again. You always want to make the best of your opportunities." ... Quick prediction: Three games in this series will go to overtime ... Murray, who is usually great with the analogies, was asked about his previous day's irritation over the Senators being referred to as a "choking dog." Said Murray: "I don't like the terminology. I watched Tiger (Woods) play on Sunday. I thought he was in front at one stage and didn't win. I don't know what you would call him at that point. I guess still a champion." You're probably thinking the Senators aren't quite in Tiger's category yet. In fact, to keep it in golf terms, they have yet to make the cut in post-season play ... Dany Heatley had three goals and nine assists in 10 playoff games last spring, his only post-season experience. Murray guarantees more from his 50-goal scorer this time around. "I just know he's a much better player this year, a much more complete player," said Murray. "He may not score every night, but I know for sure he'll work every night."

STUDYING FOR FINALS: Senators C Dean McAmmond has been to the Stanley Cup final twice. The first time was the spring of 1992, when his Chicago Blackhawks lost to Pittsburgh An 18-year-old on a veteran-laden roster that included names such as Steve Larmer, Michel Goulet and Brent Sutter, McAmmond didn't get into a game. The second time was in 2004, when McAmmond's Calgary Flames lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Recovering from back surgery, he didn't play in that one, either. Knowing the experience if only from a "back scenes" viewpoint, McAmmond naturally wants to experience a final from a participant's role. He compares the path to that of a bowling lane, and says the Senators have to ensure they stay between the bumpers. "There's no recipe," he said. "It's just a matter of making sure we all stick together."

QUOTE OF NOTE: "A loss is not a cliff, it's just a crossroads. You have to make a decision what you're going to do the next game." -- Murray's message to his players entering the playoffs.

QUOTE OF NOTE II: "Losing in Canada is probably the toughest thing you can do. I can only imagine winning in Canada." -- Daniel Alfredsson.


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