OTTAWA – Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson left practice early Monday with what the team is calling a lower body “tweak,” but head coach Cory Clouston is optimistic the Senators’ leading scorer will be in the lineup Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He’s not 100 per cent, but he knows his body better than anybody,” said Clouston. “It’s a little tweak, lower body and I think he should be fine for tomorrow. I told him to go off, ride the bike and we’ll see how things are tomorrow. I expect him to be ready for tomorrow.”
That’s good news for the Senators, who have been struggling to score goals this season. Alfredsson leads the team in scoring with six goals and six assists in 11 games.
The 4-6-1 Senators return to Toronto looking for redemption after losing their first meeting 5-1. Ottawa was badly outplayed and while they have made improvements since then, Clouston is still looking for some consistency from his team.
“At times against them we have given them the momentum when we had the momentum,” said Clouston. “To me it’s all about that in their building. Doing the little things, keeping the momentum on your side and making sure you’re not doing anything to hurt yourself whether it’s an undisciplined penalty, or turnover. Those are the little things you have to do, especially in Toronto.”
After losing 4-0 to the Bruins on Saturday, the Senators know a strong start Tuesday will be key. Since the start of the season the Senators have shown a tendency to play much better after scoring the first goal.
“(The Leafs) have come out hard the last couple of games we have played there and we have kind of let them dictate the pace of the play,” said Jason Spezza, who will be playing just his second game after missing four due to a sore groin. “When we’ve had success there we’ve kind of started out good and kind of taken the crowd out of it. The first 10 minutes should be a big focus for us.”
Averaging just 2.36 goals-per-game—which puts them 25th in the league—the Senators would love to see forwards Nick Foligno and Peter Regin add some offensive support. Both players are still looking for their first goals of the season.
“We have to believe we are going to improve offensively as the season goes on,” said Clouston. “We do need obviously some of the other guys, Regin, Foligno, to contribute offensively. I do think we have some secondary scoring in a guy like Ryan Shannon . . . but we need some other guys to start helping out.”
Improving defensively is just as important for the Senators, who rank 24th with a goals-against average of 3.18 per game.
Sergei Gonchar is minus-7 while fellow veteran Chris Phillips is minus-5.
“You want to say go and play with confidence, but it’s not just something you go and pick up at the grocery store on your way,” said Phillips. “It’s a funny game. There are things that get in your head sometimes. It’s tough to block them out, and that’s what you have to do to get out of it and hopefully that starts tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the team expects to have goalie Pascal Leclaire back Tuesday night and defenceman Filip Kuba could return by the end of the week.
Both players took part in Monday’s practice and Leclaire, who has been sidelined for the past two weeks with a groin injury, will back up Brian Elliott on Tuesday. The Senators re-assigned goaltender Robin Lehner to their AHL affiliate in Binghamton on Monday afternoon.
“Today was a good day,” said Leclaire. “We’ll see how I react in the morning . . . so far so good.”
Kuba isn’t expected to return to the lineup until Saturday at the earliest.