Alfie's absence hurts all over

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Marian Hossa can see the difference from his perch on the Penguins' bench.

The Senators are not the same without Daniel Alfredsson.

The captain missed his first playoff game ever Wednesday at Mellon Arena and there's no chance he'll be in the lineup for Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight (7 p.m., CBC/RDS).

Troubled by a knee injury and sore neck, Alfredsson was riding on the stationary bike yesterday before practice.

People would like to believe he's going to play in this series, but the word is he'd need a miracle recovery.

Not having Alfredsson is making a bad situation even worse for the Senators. Ottawa had two lengthy 5-on-3 power plays in a 4-0 loss in Game 1 and could barely muster a shot.

It's plain to see why the Penguins might have been motivated to tank their game last Sunday against the Flyers because Ottawa just isn't as tough if Alfredsson isn't around.

"He means a lot to that team and it's tough when you lose a key player on any team," said Hossa, the former Ottawa winger in the crowded Pittsburgh dressing room. "He's been with that team for years and he's a heart and soul kind of guy. It's tough for them without him.

"They definitely miss him a lot. He's a big part of the dressing room and when he's missing, they're missing their leader."

ONLY IF DESPERATE

Alfredsson won't speak to the media until he's back on the ice.

A website reported yesterday "sources close to the team" claimed Alfredsson would play in Game 3 or Game 4 next week.

It's believed there's a chance he'll play if the Senators get desperate, but there's serious questions about how much he could help.

The word is if Alfredsson tried to come back now he wouldn't be much help anyway. He hasn't been on the ice since he suffered the injury a week ago against Toronto for a reason: He's not ready to skate.

The Senators have to prove they can win without Alfredsson.

They didn't do it this season by going 3-9 in the 12 regular-season games he missed as a result of various injuries -- including his hip and groin.

"He's a key part of our team, but we can win without him," said Senators centre Jason Spezza.

The trend has to change.

This isn't the regular season where teams can afford to go into the kind of slumps that Ottawa struggled with this season. The situation has been exacerbated by the loss of centre Mike Fisher (knee) and centre Chris Kelly (foot).

"I was talking with (Alfredsson) over coffee, you wait all year and we know we had a struggle in the second half of the year, but I kind of, in the back of my mind, was thinking, 'Well, the guys are waiting for the playoffs, we get in and we'll get back to the level we're capable of playing.'," said coach-GM Bryan Murray.

The reality is the good teams overcome injuries, persevere and find a way to win.

The Maple Leafs were missing a host of regulars -- including captain Mats Sundin -- in 2002 when Gary Roberts and teammate Alyn McCauley stepped up to will Toronto to a victory over the Senators in seven games in the second round.

"I'd like to see the other team have a few things to overcome as well," Murray said. "You can do it to a point and we hope that we can do it to that point.

"I thought they played hard. We all know that it's unfortunate, but people are getting a chance to play.

"All we're asking the players, and all we can ask of them, is to do as much as hard as they can and to play well each night. If they do that, we'll be competitive. If they don't, we won't be."

The Senators are a different team without Alfredsson, but they have plenty of talent who should get this job done.

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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