NEW YORK - The Senators should consider a significant back-room move before Game 3 of these playoffs.
They should think about breaking out the needle and thread.
If a mild concussion keeps Daniel Alfredsson out of the lineup, they should sew the ‘C’ on Jason Spezza’s jersey. It’s going to happen one day, anyway. Spezza will succeed Alfredsson as the official leader of this team when No. 11 hangs them up.
Why not now, if the other option means the captain’s sweater is left hanging in a dressing room stall while the Senators attempt to claim a very important victory Monday at Scotiabank Place?
After taking an elbow to the head from Carl Hagelin, Alfredsson is a 50-50 bet to play. It all depends on how he feels when he wakes up. If he can’t go, a heavier burden will be placed on Spezza.
And he needs to rise to the occasion.
Spezza is easily the best forward on either team. If he produces like he can, he can push the Senators into Round 2. But through a pair of games at Madison Square Garden, he has just one assist. Spezza appears to be battling, but the Rangers have him in check.
He has to push harder.
Erik Karlsson needed to raise his game Saturday and he did exactly that. Not only did Karlsson score and own the puck for much of the evening, he peppered Henrik Lundqvist with 10 shots, had another five blocked and six more go wide. It was a dominating performance.
Now Spezza has to follow suit.
He must have left the rink Saturday with a bruise or two. Not only did he take a spectacular spill after a hit from Artem Anisimov, he seemed to throw his body around more than he did all season.
Indeed, Spezza has embraced the spirit of the playoffs. Now, especially if Alfredsson is out, he has extra pressure to put the puck in the net.
“It’s tough when you lose your captain. We hope it’s not bad, but guys stepped up,” Spezza said after Saturday’s game. “That’s playoff hockey. It’s big goals from different guys. If you want to go on a run, it’s going to be everybody contributing. That was a playoff-style game. It’s how we want to play. That’s how we have to play for us to have success.”
He’s right, of course. Everybody is going to have to contribute for the Senators to get past the Rangers. But he has to be leading the way.
Spezza has 14 goals and 33 assists for 47 points in 48 career playoff games. Throughout his career, he has done his scoring in bunches.
The Senators need a bunch from their future captain now.
NEIL OFF TO THE LACES
Because he was located beside Alfredsson in the visitors’ dressing room at MSG, Chris Neil always had a huge scrum of reporters crowding his space as he tried to go through his game day ritual of changing his skate laces.
On Saturday morning, he placed laces on the floor as a barrier, telling reporters to stay on the outside of the semi-circle.
After scoring the OT winner that night, he might want to adopt it as a new part of his routine.
“You know I’m superstitious,” said Neil. “It’s one of those things, whatever it is in the morning, you might keep it going, who knows?”