Game 4 should be all about Alfie

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Relaxing at his stall following what could have very well been the Senators' last practice until September, rookie Cody Bass watched the vultures of the press circle carcass after carcass.

The largest gathering, per usual, converged on Daniel Alfredsson.

"As a young guy sitting here, you learn a lot from him," said Bass, who was an eight-year-old when Alfredsson played his first game as a Senator. "He shows you what kind of a guy he is. He shows what kind of a leader he is.

"He's our captain, and whether he was ready or not, he wanted to help the team."

And yet even Superdan couldn't do enough this time. The franchise leader in almost every statistical category, Alfredsson made the most dramatic and inspirational return from injury in Senators history Monday night. On a battered knee that was supposed to keep him out another 2-4 weeks, he was the team co-leader in shots on goal (with four) and played 17:08. Nick Foligno was the only better Ottawa forward.

Bryan Murray, who has been coaching for about 35 years, admitted he couldn't remember a player performing a similar act of selflessness to suit up for a game.

"Over the years, whether it be junior or pro, I've seen guys take shots to come back and all types of things. But not to the extent," said Murray. "As I said, the timetable I was given in Toronto (April 3) was not very promising and last week it was close to the finals.

"I guess," Murray added with his trademark sarcasm, "he wanted to get some more games in before that happens."

Yeah, well, the Senators are not going to the final this spring. Even their diehard fans have to be recognizing this as their last appearance at Scotiabank Place until the 2008-09 campaign. But even in this hopeless situation, Alfredsson will slap on the harness and do whatever he has to do to play.

Murray suggested he would reunite the Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley line in Game 4 as a last-gasp effort to bring his team back to life.

"Any time you step on the ice in a sport that's physical, anything can happen," Alfredsson said of the risk that, by coming back when he did, he could have done further damage to his knee. "You can always weigh the pros and cons for everything. I don't see that it was an issue for me. It was more what could I do out there on the ice. Could I take a battle in the corner? Could I take a hit? If I felt confident doing that, then I knew I could play.

"If they got a chance they were going to finish a check on me. I didn't go in the corners as I usually do. I was able to stay clear of any conflict to aggravate it or anything."

Game 3 provided impressionable youngsters Foligno, Bass and Brian Lee with their first taste of what it's like to be a member of the home team in a playoff game at Scotiabank Place. The building doesn't rock like it used to at this time of the year, but it does have its moments.

Just as Alfredsson said Monday that the adrenaline he felt from the crowd really helped him, hearing the fans respond to the return of "Alfie, Alfie, Alfie," sent chills up and down Bass' spine.

"Amazing," Bass said, his eyes growing wide at the memory. "Imagine, being out there, with 20,000 people cheering, and then they start chanting your name. It was unbelievable."

Ah yes, another way the Senators blew their chance Monday. Murray could have started Alfredsson -- a move which would have drove the throngs wild when the Swede's face popped up on the centre-ice scoreboard -- but he didn't because he was thinking line matchups.

SILLY GLADIATOR

The roar should have been ignited earlier, anyway.

Instead of that dumb Gladiator act -- did they forget how badly a ridiculously similar pre-game script flopped in 1994? -- the organization should have promoted their own, real-life warrior.

Instead of chancing the technical difficulties that haunted the bad idea that had to come from somebody at the top, the Senators should have put some music (oh, I don't know, maybe the U2 song Beautiful Day they play when Alfredsson scores) to a video montage of No. 11.

The planners might want to go that way tonight, just as the players should put together their own tribute to Alfredsson.

It would include an entire night of hard work, desperation and sacrifice.

Mattering not is the fact the Penguins are a more talented and deeper group than the Senators. In almost every instance, the team that wins is the team that wants it most.

Alfredsson did what most men wouldn't when he suited up to try and sculpt a victory Monday.

Tonight, his teammates will be playing for pride as well as to make a positive impression on Murray. But they also should do every thing they can to win the game for Alfredsson.


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