OTTAWA – There was never a second thought for Daniel Alfredsson.
Despite having arthroscopic knee surgery a week ago, the Ottawa Senators captain never considered taking extra time off as a precaution. Alfredsson returned to action Friday night against the Phoenix Coyotes in a 6-3 victory picking up two assists.
“I feel better than before,” said Alfredsson following the game. “There’s no grinding in the knee.”
Alfredsson’s return came as no surprise to his teammates.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” said Jason Spezza. “After the surgery he said everything went well and he just doesn’t seem to miss too much time.”
Spezza was among those who benefitted from Alfredsson’s return as he scored twice.
Jarkko Ruutu also scored twice, while Dany Heatley and Anton Volchenkov also scored for the Senators (2-1-1). Martin Gerber was solid stopping 35 shots.
Shane Doan, Enver Lisin and Mikkel Boedker scored for the Coyotes (2-2-0). Ilya Bryzgalov faced 26 shots.
Alfredsson was expected to miss 10-14 days, but refused to rule out an earlier return. Speculation grew throughout the week as the Senators captain took part in practice and showed no signs of discomfort.
Alfredsson returned at full force Friday, taking a regular shift, playing on the power play all the while making the smart plays that make him so effective.
“Alfie did some smart things,” said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg. “I think he’ll get better and stronger as he goes on.”
Ruutu opened the scoring midway through the period as he capitalized on a turnover at centre ice to beat Bryzgalov with an off-balance shot.
“Scoring goals is fun,” said Ruutu. “You want to chip in whenever you can.”
Spezza made it 2-0 at the 15-minute mark of the period as Alfredsson set him up with a long pass allowing Spezza to put on a great move to draw Bryzgalov and leave an open net.
With just over one minute remaining in the period Heatley made it 3-0.
“We had great energy (Friday),” said Spezza. “That’s how we want to play.”
The same couldn’t be said for the Coyotes.
“I think the first 40 minutes was embarrassing the way we played,” said Coyotes centre Olli Jokinen. “Bryzgalov was the only guy ready to play.”
The Senators, playing in front of 20,179 at Scotiabank Place, continued to dominate in the second period as Volchenkov, playing in his 300th NHL career game, scored his first of the season as he was allowed to score on his own rebound.
“I think we need some of our guys to answer the bell a little bit,” said Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky. “You can’t turn pucks over like we did. The good news is it’s not just one guy’s fault, it’s a team effort.”
Hartsburg was happy with his team’s effort, at least for 40 minutes.
“We had four lines doing the same things,” he said. “We had lots of jump. In the third we allowed them to set the tempo and set the pace. We hadn’t played in a week so I was happy with the way we played.”
Doan opened the scoring for the Coyotes two minutes into the third scoring on a giveaway by Alexandre Picard deep in the Senators end.
Ruutu scored his second of the night two minutes later to make it 5-1, but midway through the period Lisin scored his first of the season beating Gerber with a quick wrist shot.
“I think (the third period) that’s what we need to keep up going into tomorrow’s game,” added Jokinen. “I think that’s the way we can play, but we have a young team and we have to find a way to play 60 minutes.”
Phoenix made it interesting as Boedker made it 5-3 with just over five minutes remaining as he beat a sprawling Gerber, but Spezza added a power-play goal late in the game ending any thoughts of a comeback.
The Senators are back in action Saturday as they host the Boston Bruins, while the Coyotes travel to Montreal for a meeting with the Canadiens.
Notes: The Senators D Luke Richardson and LW Christoph Schubert were healthy scratches for Ottawa. The Coyotes were without LW Daniel Carcillo who was suspended for two games. Phoenix was without D Jonas Ahnelov (hand) indefinite and C Joel Perreault (concussion) indefinite. RW Brian McGrattan and D Ryan Lannon were healthy scratches for the Coyotes. … Hartsburg was the captain of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds when he and Gretzky were teammates.